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Inteoduction vii 

I. The Chancellor in the Franco-German War . 1 

II. Further Conversations and Interviews . . 75 

III. Bismarck and his Master 188 

IV. Bismarck on Politics 208 

V. Commerce and Colonies 230 

VI. Bismarck and his Fellow- workers . . . 245 

Vir/ In Lighter Vein 262 

Index 296 


" Es ist ja nichts auf dieser Erden 
Als Gaukelei und Taschenspiel ; 
Wie auch die Menschen sich gebarden 
Der Kluge giebt darauf nicht viel." * 

[Written in the Album of Frau Julie von Massow.] 


Berlin, 25th February, 1850. 


"Nothing exists upon this earth 
But sleight of hand and trickster's arts; 
And wisdom counts it httle worth 
To reckon on man's outward parts." 



The contents of the present volume have been almost 
entirely selected from five of the latest bulky publica- 
tions * of Heinrich von Poschinger, the most industrious, 
as well as perhaps the most trustworthy, of those 
German writers who have devoted themselves to the 
compilation of the history of Prince Bismarck's career. 
And if I say " most trustworthy," it is not that I wish 
to minimize the work of others ; but that Herr von 
Poschinger, who has been for many years Privy Coun- 
cillor in the Beichsamt des Innern, is the only man of 
letters who, since the death of Germany's distinguished 
historian, Heinrich von Sybel, has had free access to 
the Prussian official records. And so, if at first sight 
it may excite surprise that among the material here 
presented to the reader, there should be included 
interviews with journalists, accounts of promiscuous 

* " Bismarck-Portefeuille," vol. i.-iv., Heinrich von Poschinger 
(Stuttgart, 1898-99); "Bismarck Neue Tischgespr'ache und Inter- 
views," Heinrich von Poschinger (Stuttgart, 1899); John Booth, 
" Personliche Erinnerungen an Fiirst Bismarck," Herausgegeben von 
H. von Poschinger (Hamburg, 1899). 

viii Introduction 

conversations whicli Bismarck held with friend and foe, 
it must be remembered that these have been deemed 
by a thoroughly competent judge to be not only 
authoritative sources of information, but also to de- 
serve a permanent place among the records of the 
life of the maker of modem Germany. This test 
of authority is their hall-mark, whereas their intrinsic 
value may be best summed up, perhaps, in the words 
of the Times (1879) : " The sparks of wisdom which 
Prince Bismarck was in the habit of emitting at his 
soirSes will one day yet have a higher value than the 
longest debates in Parliament." 

Now that the great statesman is at rest, and the 
acrimonious bickerings which were aroused after his 
death have passed into silence, the day is drawing nigh 
— and it promises to be a long one — in which every- 
thing worth preserving, every flash from that unique 
mind, may be expected to be read and appreciated 
for its inherent human interest. Much has been 
already given to the world — previous conversations 
with Bismarck among the rest — last and greatest, 
his own Keminiscences and Eeflections. But here, 
together with some of his most important political 
conversations, will be found, for the first time in book 
form, the most remarkable of the interviews which 
startled the world after Bismarck's dismissal in 1890. 
They are gathered together — sentiments and opinions 
— rugged and even brutal in their directness, as the 

Introduction ix 

parrying thrusts of a great gladiator may well appear, 
when standing alone and fighting for his honour and 
dignity in an age not particularly noted for moral 
courage, or indeed for any other form of sincerity. 
Here is indeed human tragedy: humour, sarcasm, 
pathos, pity, every manifestation of a great heart, side 
by side with calm disquisitions upon the most im- 
portant political problems which interest mankind in 
every clime. Many of the keen shafts and sallies here 
collected, have been flashed to the ends of the Earth 
within a few hours of their utterance, have given work 
to thousands of type-setters, and absorbed the interest 
of millions of readers. 

All this might indeed be said of the utterance of 
many public men in our age of electricity ; but here 
the parallel ends. For whereas " the man of the day " 
is often but the faint shadow of the morrow and the 
unrecognizable dead of the day after, the pregnant 
thoughts of this political genius gain strength and 
meaning with the passage of time. A mere glance 
at the present volume will suffice to prove the truth 
of this; for, on almost every page are discussions of 
weighty political problems, and no topic is touched 
without being enriched by some apergu, in many cases 
unerringly prophetic. 

It is not, then, too much to say that in years to 
come men of all countries, who are interested in the 
difficult art of politics as demonstrated by one of the 

X Introduction 

greatest political artists that ever lived, will turn anew 
to the story of Bismarck's life and find essential 
material in these collected conversations. 

It is well known that in the last years of his life 
Prince Bismarck was anxiously preoccupied with the 
future of the Empire in whose creation he had 
so large a share. It was not his ambition that 
Germany should domineer the world, nor even that 
she should excel other nations in the tricks of the 
money-market, highly as he valued a nation's material 
prosperity as a means and an indication of progress. 
His aim was rather to secure Germany from foreign 
interference with her free development as one of the 
great civilizing forces of the world — who knows 
whether in the future not the greatest of them 
all ? Not as a conqueror, 1jm as a guardian of law, 
order, and peace, was it Bismarck's wish that Ger- 
many should thrive; as a country in which, true to 
the motto of the Hohenzollern, Suum Cuique, every- 
body, rich or poor, should be entitled to his own, not 
merely to the bare measure of human justice, but also 
to a few rays of sunshine. The foundation of the 
State should be one of an ethical character, with 
equity for its keystone, and the principle underlying 
its wider policy: " Niemand zu Lieb, Niemand zu 
Leid" (to favour nobody, to harm nobody). And 
that this standard of the great statesman was no 
mere cant is best shown by the fact that, of all the 

Introduction xi 

great Powers, Germany is the only one wMch has been 
uninterruptedly at peace with the world for the last 
thirty years. If Prince Bismarck's ideas prevail, Ger- 
many may well remain at peace for the next fifty 
years, and find her noblest mission in the development 
of those qualities and institutions which seem destined 
to make her as much the pioneer of social progress, as 
she is already the leader in the domains of scientific 
research and practical philosophy. 





The greatness of character, the concentration of purpose, 
and the diplomatic genius displayed by Prince Bismarck 
during the war of 1870-71 have not yet, perhaps, been 
fully realized by the rising generation, most of whom 
are inclined to lose sight of the difficulties of this 
portion of the Chancellor's work in the overwhelming 
successes achieved by the German armies. It is, there- 
fore, not out of place to collect a few conversations 
and interviews with Bismarck during this momentous 

At the very commencement of the war it was 
evident that there existed in certain circles a slowly 
growing opposition towards the Chancellor. General 
von Hartmann, who was present at the departure of 
the King and his suite from Berlin on July 31, 1870, 
wrote as follows : — 

2c^ -CQaversations with Prince Bismarck 

" Bismarck also accompanied them. He was looking 
extraordinarily well, and was most merry and good- 
humoured ; his powerful eyes sparkled with pride and 
pleasure; I, too, shook hands with him. I did not 
see Moltke; he is said to have looked as absolutely 
indifferent as ever. What nerves that man must 
have! I also witnessed Bismarck taking leave of 
Manteuffel, whom he approached with a hearty ex- 
pression, as though he wished to shake hands before 
setting out on this decisive journey; but Manteuffel 
greeted him very coolly, and Bismarck's manner 
changed at once. They shook hands without any 
cordiality; their relations to one another remained 
unaltered. Manteuffel is said to be terribly ex- 
cited, and to use the strongest expressions about 
trivialities. His entourage finds itself in a difficult 

As the Koyal Headquarters left Berlin, Bismarck 
involuntarily overheard a loud conversation, carried 
on in the adjoining compartment. General von 
Podbielski laid particular stress upon the fact that 
care had this time been taken to prevent Bismarck 
interfering in military matters. Von Eoon, the Minister 
of War, who was on friendly terms with the Chancellor, 
interposed almost bashfully, " But surely he must know 
when he has to make peace." 

In order to maintain connection with the German 
press. Prince Bismarck invited Ludwig Bamberger to 
accompany the Eoyal Headquarters, and to this we owe 
much valuable information about the Chancellor's daily 
life during this momentous period. 

Their first conversation, which took place upon the 

The Franco-German War 3 

7th of August, turned eventually on the method by 
which the unity of Germany was to be the outcome of 
the war. 

Bismarck touched on this subject with caution, and 
was particularly concerned in maintaining a good under- 
standing with the several Federal sovereigns ; Prussia 
must not allow itself to appear as if it wished to 
utilize the occasion for the purpose of robbing the 
German Governments after they, and in particular the 
Bavarians, had decided upon war. In the event of 
success, he intended (although his views on this point 
wavered during the campaign) to unite Alsace and 
Metz to Baden as a Beichsland; and yet Baden must 
not become any larger, for the more small states there 
were, the more easily would the unity be cemented. 
He had even incorporated Waldeck in Prussia with 
reluctance; the correct policy, he said, was to spare 
the various dynasties. That France would probably 
become a republic after the first few defeats, was a 
prospect quite to his liking ; the only question would 
be, with whom to conclude a peace-treaty when once 
the Empire had been overturned ? 

The day after this conversation Bismarck gave 
Bamberger copies of Benedetti's autograph letter and 
draft of the secret projet de traite of August 5, 1866, 
in which parts of Ehenish Prussia, Bavaria and Hesse 
were demanded by France. The Chancellor mentioned 
that Benedetti had remarked, " Si non, c'est la guerre." 
And that he (Bismarck) had replied that that was 
absurd. Whereupon Benedetti retorted, " Si non, c'est 
la perte de la dynastie." 

A curious incident, during the Chancellor's stay 

4 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

in Bar le Due, is mentioned by the French author, 
Louis Ulbach — 

" Von Bismarck found time during the march of the 
German armies on Sedan to discuss the merits of 
German and French education with the masters of the 
Bar-le-Duc gij^nnasium, who had remained behind. It 
was the eve of the last effort — the final crisis; and 
our great enemy, with the intention of defeating us 
simultaneously on all sides, inspected the gymnasium 
on August 28, 1870, inquiring about the number of 
lessons and the standard of the studies. This visit, 
reported by the master of the ffijmnasium, appears to 
me to have a special importance, though Bismarck 
does not mention it, and his historian, Moritz Busch, 
seems to know nothing about it. During this inspection 
the Chancellor emphatically censured the boarding- 
house system, which separates a child from its parents. 
He admitted that the German universities permitted 
too much freedom; but he seemed to prefer noisy 
liberty for the young to the uniformity and enervation 
of French seclusion. He thought it curious that 
ground-glass should be used for the windows; that 
the boys in the class-rooms were not allowed to look 
out upon the sky and open spaces ; and that spyholes 
were made in the doors to surprise and pry upon the 
pupils. Bismarck even found fault with the pews in 
the chapel, which did not face the choir, but were 
arranged along 'the side, so that the boys could 
not see the services they attended. After inspecting 
and criticizing everything, he partook of a glass of 
Kirschwasser, pledged the peace, declaring at the same 
time that he had little belief in it, and left to hasten 

The Franco-German War . 5 

the arrival of the German army on the last battlefield 
of the Empire." 

Commencing with the capitulation of Sedan, a series 
of most interesting and valuable interviews are recorded, 
not by the hands of devoted subordinates, but by those 
to whom Bismarck's success meant ruin and defeat. 

Captain D' Greet, of the 4th French Cuirassiers, after 
describing in his Recit militaire the meeting of the 
generals empowered to negotiate the surrender of the 
French army after Sedan, continues — 

"We were grouped as follows. In the centre of the 
room stood a square table with a red cloth. At one 
side of this table sat General von Moltke, with Bis- 
marck on his left, and General von Blumenthal on his 
right. At the opposite side of the table sat General 
Wimpffen in advance and quite alone ; behind him and 
almost in shadow were General Castelnau, General Faure, 
and the remaining French officers. In the same room 
were also seven or eight Prussian officers, one of whom, 
at a sign from General von Blumenthal, went to the 
stove and, leaning upon it, took notes of all that was 

When every one was seated, there was a momentary 
silence. It was clear that General Wimpffen did not 
quite know how to open the conversation; but, as 
General von Moltke made no attempt to begin, he 
decided to do so himself. 

" I wish to know," he said, " what terms of capitula- 
tion His Majesty the King of Prussia is disposed to 
offer to us." 

" The conditions are very simple," replied General 
von Moltke : " all the troops, with their arms and 

6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

baggage, will be made prisoners ; the officers will retain 
their arms as a mark of respect for the courage they 
have shown, but will become prisoners of war like the 
non-commissioned officers and men." 

General Wimpffen complained that these terms were 
too hard, and pleaded that the army should be allowed 
to withdraw to the interior of France, or to Algeria, 
on condition that it took no further share in the war. 
As Moltke declined to entertain any such proposal, the 
French commander appealed to the generosity of the 
Germans on his own behalf, pointing out that he had 
only arrived on the battlefield in time to take over the 
command. General Wimpffen concluded by announc- 
ing that he would appeal to the sense of honour of 
his troops, and either force his way out or defend 

At this point Moltke interrupted him. " Believe me, 
I entertain the greatest respect for you ; I quite under- 
stand your position ; but I regret that I can concede 
nothing that you demand. As regards an attempt to 
force your way out, that is as impossible as to defend 
Sedan. No doubt you have excellent troops, your 
picked infantry is very good, your cavalry is daring and 
fearless, your artillery is admirable and has inflicted 
heavy — far too heavy losses upon us; but the greater 
part of your infantry is discouraged ; we have taken 
more than 20,000 unwounded prisoners to-day." He 
then proceeded to describe briefly the overwhelming 
numbers and superiority of the German forces, and 
concluded by offering to allow a French officer to verify 
his statement as to their position and strength. 

General Wimpffen then tried a new tack. He urged 

The Franco-German War 7 

the German representatives not to press their ad- 
vantages too far, and warned them against a course 
which must lead to an endless struggle between Prussia 
and France. 

Von Bismarck now joined in the discussion. 

"Your reasoning, General, at first appears well 
founded, but as a matter of fact it is not so. Generally 
speaking, one can rarely reckon on gratitude — never on 
the gratitude of a nation ; one can put some trust in the 
gratitude of a sovereign, and also in that of his family ; 
under certain conditions, one can even rely upon it with 
confidence; but, I repeat, one must not expect any- 
thing from the gratitude of a nation. If the French 
people were a nation like other nations, if it preserved 
firmly established institutions, if it regarded those 
institutions with reverence and respect, as we do, if the 
throne of its ruler was stable, we might then reckon on 
the gratitude of the Emperor and his son, and attach a 
definite value to that gratitude. But for the last eighty 
years the forms of Government in France have had so 
little stability, they have been so numerous, they have 
vacillated with such estranging rapidity, and their 
changes have lain so completely beyond the bounds of 
expectation, that one can reckon on nothing in your 
country, and it would be an act of folly for a neighbour- 
ing nation to found hopes on the friendship of any 
French sovereign. To do so would be to build a house 
of glass. Moreover, it would be foolish to suppose that 
France could ever forgive our successes. Your nation 
is excitable, envious, jealous, and proud beyond mea- 
sure. France has declared war with Prussia — with 
Germany," he added, correcting himself, " thirty times 

8 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

within two centuries. On tliis occasion, as before, the 
war arose from jealousy because you could not forgive 
us the victory of Sadowa, though it cost you nothing, 
and in no way detracted from your reputation. But 
you thought that the glory of war was something to 
which you alone were entitled ; you would not tolerate 
near you a nation that was your equal. You believed 
yourselves unable to forgive us Sadowa — you will never 
be able to forgive us Sedan ! If we made peace now, 
you would resume the war in five or ten years, as soon 
as you thought you were strong enough; and that 
would be all the thanks we could expect from the 
French nation. Our nation is the opposite of yours — 
honest and peaceable, not consumed with a lust of 
conquest, and only asking for peace. We wish to 
secure peace for our children, and in order to achieve 
this, we must set a barrier between ourselves and you. 
We need a strip of .land and a chain of fortresses 
which will continue to protect us against the attacks 
of France."/ 

The French commander protested against this criticism 
of his countrymen, and assured the Chancellor that 
the diatribes of a few journalists did not represent the 
true feeling of the nation. The Frenchman of 1870 
was more intent on making money and living in comfort 
than on seeking military glory. The old hatred of 
England had died out, and so would the bitter feeling 
towards Germany, provided that unseasonable severity 
did not inflame forgotten passions. 

Bismarck at once replied — 

" There I must interrupt you. General. No ; France 
is the same as she always was. France wanted this 

The Franco-German War 9 

war, and the Emperor Napoleon declared it in order to 
establish his dynasty more securely. We know well 
enough that the reasonable and healthy section in France 
did not urge on this war. Still it accepted the idea 
willingly. We also know that the army was not the 
element most hostile towards us in France : the section 
in France which forced on this war was rather that 
section which makes and unmakes the various govern- 
ments : the mob and the journalists/' and he laid 
special emphasis on these words, " deserve punishment. 
We must advance as far as Paris. Who knows what 
may yet happen? Perhaps you will be establishing 
one of those governments to which nothing is holy, 
and which will make laws as it pleases. Such a govern- 
ment would decline to recognize the capitulation which 
you had concluded to-day in the name of the army. 
It would perhaps force the officers to break word of 
honour they had given to us, for, in any case, it would 
wish to defend itself to the last. We know well that 
France places soldiers in the field quickly ; but these 
young troops are not the equals of veteran forces, and, 
moreover, the corps of officers cannot be improvised ; no, 
nor even the non-commissioned officers. We desire 
peace, but it must be a lasting peace, and under the 
conditions which I have already mentioned. The 
fortune of war has placed the best soldiers and the best 
officers of the French army in our hands; to restore 
them to liberty of our own free will would be madness, 
and would prolong the war. Such a course is opposed 
to the interest of our nations. No, General ; no matter 
how much we sympathize with your own situation, or 
y how flattering our opinion of your army may be, we 

10 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

cannot comply with your wish and alter the conditions 
offered to you." 

" Very well," replied General Wimpffen, with dignity. 
*' It is impossible for me to sign such a capitulation ; we 
will resume the struggle." 

General Castelnau now remarked, with some hesita- 
tion — 

" I think the time has arrived to deliver the Emperor's 

" We are listening to you, General," observed Bis- 

" The Emperor has commissioned me to tell his 
Majesty the King of Prussia, that he has sent him his 
sword, and surrenders to him unconditionally. He does 
this, however, in the hope that the King, touched by so 
complete a surrender, will pay a full tribute to it, and 
grant the French army a more honourable capitula- 

" Is that all ? " asked Bismarck. 


" But which sword is it that the Emperor Napoleon 
III. has surrendered ? Is it the sword of France, or his 
own sword ? If it is the sword of France, the conditions 
might be considerably modified, and your mission would 
then assume a most serious complexion." 

"It is only the sword of the Emperor," replied 

" In that case- the conditions will undergo no change," 
Moltke remarked quickly, almost joyfully. "The 
Emperor himself will receive everything that he desires." 

The spectators of this scene received the impres- 
sion that a secret difference of opinion existed between 

The Franco-German War 1 1 

Bismarck and Moltke, and that, whilst the former would 
willingly have allowed the war to end at once, the latter 
wished to continue it. 

"We shall renew the battle," repeated General 

"The truce expires at 4 a.m. to-morrow," replied 
General von Moltke. " I shall open fire punctually at 
four o'clock." 

All the generals and officers rose from their seats amid 
an icy silence : the words " I shall open fire punctually 
at four o'clock " seemed still to ring in their ears. 

Bismarck, however, turned to General Wimpffen. 
" Yes, General, you command brave and heroic soldiers, 
and I do not doubt that they will display brilliant 
courage to-morrow and inflict severe losses upon us. 
But of what use will that be ? You will have achieved 
no more to-morrow evening than you have to-day, and 
you will only have upon your conscience the blood of 
your soldiers and of our own which you have shed so 
uselessly. Do not allow your momentary displeasure 
to cause you to break off our conversation. General 
von Moltke will, I hope, convince you that to attempt 
further resistance would be madness." 

The company then resumed their seats, and General 
von Moltke again assured the French commander that 
even the best troops could not force their way through 
the German lines. Wimpffen hazarded the suggestion 
that possibly the German positions were not so strong 
as they were represented to be, but received the crushing 
retort that the French were no doubt better acquainted 
with the topography of Germany than of France. 

These memorable negotiations then closed by General 

12 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Moltke according the French an extension of the tnice 
from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m., on the suggestion of the Chancellor, 
in order to allow a French council of war to be held. A 
few hours later the capitulation was signed, and the 
French army became prisoners of war. 

The following entry in the diary of the Crown Prince 
(afterwards Emperor Frederick II.) was penned at 
Donchery on the 3rd of September, 1870 : — 

"A visit from Bismarck. We retain Alsace under 
German administration for the ' Bund/ or Empire. The 
Empire idea was barely touched upon ; I noticed that he 
was only in favour of it conditionally, and I took care 
not to insist. Altogether I am convinced that it must 
come to this ; our development turns on it, and cannot 
be brought about more favourably than by means of this 

This interview is apparently the one to which Bis- 
marck referred during a conversation with Moritz Busch 
at Friederichsruh on the 26th of September, 1888, as 
follows : — 

" It was either before or immediately after Sedan — 
at Beaumont or Donchery — and our conversation took 
place in a long avenue. We were riding side by side. 
Our views as to what was possible and what was 
morally permissible brought us into direct conflict; 
and, as he suggested using force and forcible measures 
against the Bavarians, I reminded him of Margrave Gero 
and the thirty Wendish princes, and also of the murder- 
ous night of Sendling. It would be a breach of faith, 
cruelty, and treachery to allies who had done their duty, 
quite apart from the folly of making the attempt when 
we still had need of them." 

The Franco-German War 13 

Barely three weeks later, September 20, 1870, a 
remarkable interview took place between Bismarck and 
M. Eegnier,* who was endeavouring to negotiate a treaty 
of peace between Prussia and the Napoleonic Dynasty. 

Arriving at Ferrieres from Hastings at 10 a.m., M. 
Eegnier found little difficulty in obtaining a private 
interview with the Chancellor. The credentials of the 
Napoleonic agent consisted of a photographic view of 
Hastings, on which the Prince Imperial had written — 

" My dear Papa, — I send you a view of Hastings ; 
I hope it will please you.— Louis Napoleon." 

When Bismarck had carefully examined it, M. Eegnier, 
with a searching expression, asked for a passport to 
enable him to go to "Wilhelmshohe to hand the photo- 
graph to the Emperor. After a brief silence, the 
Chancellor remarked — 

" Our position is as follows. With whom can we 
negotiate, and what can be offered to us ? It is our firm 
determination to utilize the present situation so as to 
avoid another war with Prance in the future, or at least 
for a very long time to come ; therefore a rectification 
of the French frontier is indispensable for us. More- 
over, we are confronted by two Governments, one de 
facto and one de jure; we cannot alter their position, 
and it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to negotiate 
with either of them. 

*'The neutral Powers would be glad to have the 

situation cleared up. The Empress Eegent has quitted 

the country, and she has given no sign of life since ; 

a few words of mine during an interview at which 

* " Quel est votr© nom ? M. or N." 

14 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

MM. de Castelnau and Pietri were present, might 
have given rise to serious pour parlers, if that had 
been their intention, but they do not seem to have 
wished to understand my meaning. 

" The provisional Government for the Defence either 
will not or cannot accept this condition of a cession 
of territory, but proposes an armistice to enable them 
to put the question to the French nation. We can 
easily wait. We have 400,000 men here, living on 
the occupied and conquered districts ; when Metz and 
the other towns have surrendered, we shall have 
500,000 to 600,000 men; they can bivouac in this 
way throughout the winter. As soon as we are met 
by a Government de facto ct de jure^ which is able 
to negotiate on the basis proposed by us, we shall 
negotiate. For the present we have no occasion to 
communicate our demands regarding the cession of 
territory, since the suggestion has been declined in 

M. Regnier replied that he thought the Empress 
should have returned to the fleet or to her country — 
she might yet do so — and issue a proclamation; but 
the fear of appearing to hinder the national defence 
had dissuaded her from doing so for dynastic reasons. 

The Chancellor interrupted him — 

" That is true enough ; but the past lies behind us, 
let us occupy ourselves with the present. So far as 
that is concern-ed, we should be happy to accept easier 
conditions than those to which the Defence Committee 
in Paris could openly agree. Bazaine and Uhrich 
would act in the name of the Imperial Government in 
the event of a capitulation." 

The Franco-German War 15 

He further informed the agent that Jules Favre 
thought he could reckon on the garrison of Metz. 
M. Eegnier at once offered to go to Metz. 

"If you had arrived eight, or even four, days ago, 
you would have been in time; now I am afraid it is 
too late." 

Then, with a glance at his watch, he remarked that 
the hour appointed for the meeting with M. Favre had 
long passed, and so the interview came to an end. 
Eegnier left on the Chancellor's writing-table the first 
number of La Situation, which was published the 
day before he left London, and observed he would 
take it again on bidding farewell to the Chancellor 
that evening. 

At eight o'clock Bismarck again received M. Eegnier, 
who proceeded to unfold his plans. The commandants 
of Metz and Strassburg were to be informed that, in 
the event of those fortresses being surrendered, negotia- 
tions must be conducted in the name of the Emperor. 
The members of the Senate, the Legislative Chambers, 
and the Council of State would be summoned by 

proclamation to assemble on the at the town 

of . Another proclamation would inform the 

nation that the violent action of the Left in seizing 
the supreme power had forced on the conclusion of a 
disadvantageous peace. The patriotism of the Empress 
Eegent in leaving the country temporarily had pre- 
vented a civil war. Since the Provisional Government 
had given way so quickly, it was not necessary for so 
large a portion of France to be devastated so terribly 
that future generations would feel the effect. In spite 
of their victories^ the enemy had caused less damage 

1 6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

in France than had the Provisional Government round 
Paris, although they had made no defence, and had 
merely busied themselves in deposing officials. (Bis- 
marck interrupted him here to add his earnest con- 
firmation of this sentence, and spoke of the unnecessary 
vandalism which had demolished the bridges without 
delaying the marches of the Germans by one hour.) 
In view of the expressed decision of the Committee of 
National Defence, there was no longer any reason for 
its existence, and its mission had in consequence come 
to an end. All imperial officials would therefore 
resume their duties from the 1st of October, on which 
date the Empress Eegent would again take up the 
reins of government, and only such transactions as 
were executed by her authority would be recognized. 
Later on the French nation would be called upon to 
choose the form of government. 

Bismarck replied as follows : — 

"Fate has decided; the delay in recognizing this 
fact is not the attribute of inflexibility, but of vacil- 
lation ; nothing can now delay us. Find us some one 
with whom we can negotiate, and you will render your 
country a great service. I will provide you with a 
general pass, which will permit you to travel through 
every German country, including all districts occupied 
by the troops; a telegram will arrive at Metz before 
you do, and facilitate your entry into the town. Will 
you leave me this first number of La Situation ? " 

It was now eleven o'clock, and Bismarck called Count 
Hatzfeldt to find quarters for M. Eegnier, who preferred 
to pass the night at a locksmith's to occupying the 
room destined for Jules Favre the following day. 

The Franco-German War 17 

A lieutenant of police brought M. Eegnier his passport 
at midnight. It ran as follows : — 

"The Commanders of the allied troops are respect- 
fully requested to allow M. Eegnier, who is proceeding 
to Germany from here, to pass unhindered and to 
facilitate his journey as far as possible. 

"V. Bismarck. 

« Ferrieres, September 20, 1870." 

M. Eegnier's second interview with Bismarck took 
place at 8 p.m. on September 28, 1870, at Ferrieres. 
After relating his experiences at the headquarters of 
Prince Frederick Charles, where he received permission 
to enter the besieged fortress of Metz, the Bonapartist 
agent appears to have treated the Chancellor to a 
lengthy exposition of his views as to the conditions 
of peace and the probable future of the political con- 
figuration of the world. He concluded with an appeal 
to the feelings of the Chancellor. 

Bismarck replied, " The negotiations for an armistice 
have been broken off. I have found nothing but an 
advocate in M. Jules Favre. I am surprised and sorry 
that you, who appear to be a practical man, after going 
to Metz with the certainty of being able to return 
without any anxiety regarding your papers — a thing 
which has never before been sanctioned — should return 
without a more formal proof of your capacity for 
negotiation than a signed photograph of the Marshal 
and a letter to his wife, which, as I gather from its 
contents, it is agreed that you should answer. But, 
my dear sir, I have been a diplomat for more than 
twelve years, and this is not enough for me. I am 


1 8 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

sorry, but I find myself obliged to break off all 
further communication until you have more extensive 

Eegnier expressed his painful surprise and disap- 
pointment, and thanked Bismarck for his kindness 
towards him. 

The Chancellor then remarked — 

" I would gladly have negotiated with you upon the 
conditions of peace, provided you had been able to treat 
in the name of the Marshal at the head of 80,000 men. 
Have you anything to say against my sending the 
following telegram to the Marshal ? — 

" ' Does Marshal Bazaine authorize M. Eegnier to 
negotiate regarding the surrender of the Army of 
Metz ? ' " 

Eegnier had the words added, " On the basis of the 
conditions agreed upon with the latter." 

Count Hatzfeldt later on brought Bazaine's answer 
to M. Eegnier : 

" I cannot answer this question in the affirmative. 
I have told M. Eegnier that I cannot decide upon the 
capitulation of the town of Metz." 

Needless to say, this reply put a stop to all further 
communication between Bismarck and Eegnier. 

An attempt was made, between the 6th and 9th of 
October, 1870, by General Burnside and Colonel Forbes 
to arrange terms which might lead to a cessation of 
hostilities. Before interviewing Bismarck, General 
Burnside asked Jules Favre for a note referring to this 
subject, but though this was refused, the American was 
authorized to refer to their conversation in discussing 
matters with the Chancellor. Particular stress was to 

The Franco-German War 19 

be laid upon two points — the integrity of French territory, 
and an armistice for the convening of the National 

On the 9th of October, Jules Favre received General 
Burnside on his return from Versailles. The result of 
his four interviews with Bismarck was as follows : — 

The necessity of convening the National Assembly 
was fully recognized, but could only be granted on the 
following conditions : — 

1. An armistice for forty-eight hours for the com- 
pletion of the elections. 

2. Free elections in the occupied departments, ex- 
clusive of Alsace and Lorraine. 

3. An armistice not to apply to Metz. 

4. Supplies not to be replenished during the armistice. 
Jules Favre, in a special note, declared that these 

conditions could not be entertained, and the negotiations 
therefore came to nothing. 


October 7, 1870 

About this time the Mayor of Versailles, M. Rameau, 
had an interview with Bismarck about the elections for 
the National Assembly, and incidentally about the 
general military and political situation. 

The Chancellor was sitting at a table covered with 

opened letters ; one of these, partly mutilated, contained 

the order of the 1st of October, which eventually formed 

the subject of the conversation. Without showing the 

* " Records of the Versailles Commune." 

20 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

letter to M. Eameau, Bismarck mentioned that it came 
from Gambetta. 

M. Eameau opened the conversation by telling the 
Chancellor how he came to be the Mayor of Versailles, 
and then proceeded to formulate his requests concerning 
the elections. Bismarck assured him that the Germans 
wished for nothing better than that a Government 
should be formed with whom they might negotiate. 
The arrival of an envoy from the Provisional Govern- 
ment at Tours, and the permission to carry out the 
elections in their usual forms, were agreed to without 

" Yety well," observed Bismarck, " I understand how 
you will act when the opportunity arises ; but would 
you do so without an order, that is, some official docu- 
ment, from your Government ; and do you possess such 
an authority ? " 

The Mayor declared that he would never permit 
elections to take place without orders, but though he 
had received no such authority, it would be sufficient 
if he were morally and completely convinced that an 
order had been issued from Tours on the 30th of 
September, fixing the elections for the 16th of October. 

"You have received no news whatever that that 
order has been postponed or annulled in the mean 
time ? " inquired Bismarck, and added, on receiving a 
reply in the negative — 

"Well, I am certain of it, and will hand you the 
proof myself." 

He then read aloud the order of the Government of 
the National Defence, dated Paris, October 1, 1870, 
which postponed the elections until they could take 

The Franco-German War 21 

place throughout the whole of the Eepublic, and declared 
every act in contravention of the order to be null and 

Bismarck appeared to attach special importance to 
the list of names of all those who had signed the order, 
and read out the whole list. 

The Mayor could not conceal his surprise and excite- 
ment at this unexpected news, and begged for a copy 
of the document to lay before the Town Council. 
Bismarck summoned a secretary and gave him a paper, 
adding a few words in German ; he then turned to the 
Mayor, and told him the copy would be ready in an 
hour's time. 

" You see," continued Bismarck, " I am not the person 
who prevented the elections on the 16th; even when 
they were fixed for the 20th of October, the Crown 
Prince asked me whether I objected to the elections 
taking place in the departments occupied by us, and 
I at once replied that I had nothing to say against it. 

" And this has always been the case with the armis- 
tice conferences. They have never been broken off by me. 
An armistice of fifteen to twenty days was a material 
advantage granted to France by Germany. Every day 
was so much gained by France towards the organization 
of the general defence, but for Germany it was a loss, 
since it delayed our advance. We had, therefore, to be 

" If I demanded Toul and Verdun, I only anticipated 
by five or six days the date on which those two fortresses 
would fall to us. But it was an enormous advantage 
to France, and particularly to Paris, to be able to effect 
wholesale repairs, materially by food supplies, morally 

22 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

by political communication with the remainder of 
France. We could not concede the point of raising 
the investment, without obtaining compensation in the 
form of the military positions which command Paris. 

"I never mentioned Mount Valerien; M. Jules 
Favre alone spoke of it. Eeferring to the investment, 
he remarked to me, ' How can you convene the National 
Assembly at Paris when it is invested ? ' I replied, 
' Convene it at Tours or elsewhere.' ' Then how could 
the Paris deputies get there ? ' I replied, ' The absence 
of 43 out of 750 would not hinder the session of the 

"In brief, M. Favre begged to be allowed to com- 
municate this to the Government of the National 
Defence, and has not turned up since ! Then all those 
articles appeared in the newspapers, saying that I 
had claimed Mount Yalerien. This error was allowed 
to spread; and I am convinced that the preparation 
for the elections was suspended on October 2, and the 
pour 'parUrs were broken off, for no other reason. More- 
over, I have always censured the system of spreading 
false reports or lies through the Press, an abuse which 
was perpetrated by the Empire and is now continued 
by your Eepublic." 

In answer to the Mayor's look of incredulity, the 
Chancellor contkiued, " I can give you a proof of this 
regarding an engagement which took place near L'Hay 
during the last few days. I have here the ofl&cial re- 
ports and documents about the casualties. Our troops 
picked up and buried the French and German dead on 
one particular part of the battlefield, but only up to 
that point where the projectiles from your forts fell 

The Franco-German War 23 

without effect; there were more than 450 French and 
85 Germans. But this is easily understood, as our 
troops were under cover and fired from loopholes made 
in the walls, whilst your troops were wholly without 
protection. These numbers do not include the losses in- 
flicted on you by our artillery, whose accuracy is well 
known. They are estimated to be at the least as many 
again (and this we were able to ascertain), because those 
who were hit at a longer range fell so close to your 
forts that we could not pick them up. We may there- 
fore say 900 French were killed and 85 Germans. 
Well, then, your papers reported about 400 French 
hors de combat against more than 500 Germans." 

Count Bismarck then spoke of the political situation, 
deliberately choosing his words, as though he were ex- 
plaining a complete policy to a plenipotentiary. 

" We do not make war in order to occupy the country 
indefinitely, but to secure peace. Therefore, unless you 
create an authority, a government, which satisfies us 
that it is able to enter into obligations in the name of 
France, you put it out of our power to discuss the con- 
ditions of such a peace. The German armies will in 
no way interfere in the choice of the government, which 
France will itself decide on; nor will they place any 
obstacles in the way of the session of the elective 
assemblies and their actions, provided that the strategical 
lines, especially those towards Paris, are not traversed, 
and the military dispositions are not thereby affected. 

"The defensive system, which the French Govern- 
ment appears to have adopted, forces Germany into a 
protracted occupation : this may lead to the most 
terrible catastrophes. The German armies, living on 

24 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Frencli soil, and moreover able to draw the necessary 
supplies from their own country, with which they are 
in communication, will surely hold out longer than the 
city of Paris. At a given moment this city will have 
to open its gates to two millions of hungry people, 
who, even should the German armies have withdrawn 
from the immediate vicinity, will be obliged to travel 
at least eighteen lieues, a three -days' march in all 
directions, and will become exhausted without finding 
so much as a crust. Under such circumstances it is 
impossible to traverse such a distance, and the two 
million people are destined to perish." 

To the Mayor's objection that Bismarck's observations 
were founded on the incorrect assumption that Paris 
had been abandoned and could not receive any aid, the 
Chancellor replied — 

"France will collect men, but not an army. In 
order to form an army one must first of all have men, 
and secondly weapons, which the men know how t-o 
use. If the French had had time to learn the proper 
use of the chassepot, the Germans would never have 
advanced so far as they have to-day. But organization 
is also required (artillery, cavalry, engineers, supply 
and transport, hospitals, provisions of all kinds). These 
things cannot be improvised, and months ^yill pass 
before everything is ready and the arms received from 
America. What can your franctireurs and mobiles do 
by themselves ? ' They will never withstand a corps of 
ten thousand regulars and artillery. 

"Last of all, your men, in addition to equipment 
and organization, require ofl&cers to form an army, and 
ofi&cers in whom they have confidence. What is one 

The Franco-German War 25 

to think of your generals (I do not say all), who, when 
the thunder of the guns commenced, were always one 
or two kilometres away from their men, drinking coffee ; 
who actually allowed their soldiers to be fired on with 
case shot, whilst they were in camp, without making 
certain of the whereabouts of the enemy ? The German 
troops could issue from a wood and unlimber a battery 
of forty guns before the French soldiers even suspected 
anything, or stood to their arms. 

"Germany wants peace, and will make war until- 
she gets it, let the consequences be ever so lamentable 
from a humane point of view. France may perish like 
Carthage and other nations of antiquity. This peace 
will be secured by a line of fortresses between Strass- 
burg and Metz, as well as by those two towns, which 
will protect Germany against the dread of a second 
attack by France; the little fortresses lying between 
are of no importance." 

The worthy Mayor then took his departure, after 
seeking the Chancellor's aid in obtaining a remission 
of the requisitions and contributions levied on the town 
of Versailles. 

Bismarck and General Boyer* 
Versailles, October 14 and 15, 1870 

Before sending General Boyer to the German head- 
quarters at Versailles, Marshal Bazaine convened a 
great council of war on the 10th of October. It was 
resolved that an attempt should be made to arrive at 
a military convention with Bismarck, so that the Army 
♦ " EnquSte parlementaire." General Boyer's evidence. 

26 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of the Ehine might march out of Metz with military 
honours. At the same time it was decided that, if 
the proposals of the German Government proved un- 
acceptable, a last attempt should be made to leave the 

Boyer left Metz, commissioned to ask Bismarck 
what conditions he would impose upon the army, and 
he was also instructed to inform him that the army 
would not agree to such a capitulation as that of Sedan. 
The General, accompanied by two orderly officers of 
Prince Frederick Charles, who did not allow him out of 
their sight, started on the 12th of October. He was for- 
bidden to communicate with anybody en route. He 
reached Versailles early on the 14th, where the town- 
commandant assigned him a lodging in the Eue du 
Satory, under the strictest supervision, until he could 
be received by the Chancellor. 

About ten in the morning. General Boyer was in- 
formed that Bismarck would soon send for him ; but 
it was 1 p.m. w^hen he was driven in an open carriage 
to the Chancellor's dwelling. 

During the interview, which lasted till four o'clock, 
Bismarck discussed the French situation arising out of 
the revolution of the 4th of September, the European 
mission of M. Thiers, and his own interview with Jules 
Favre at Ferrieres. Bismarck criticized the individuals, 
the parts they had played, and several members of the 
Government of National Defence. He also spoke of 
the American mission of Generals Sheridan and 
Burnside, who had returned from Paris, where they 
had gone with his sanction to try and establish rela- 
tions between the French and the German governments. 

The Franco-German War 27 

When the Chancellor inquired as to Marshal Bazaine's 
demands, Boyer explained that, after the military events 
in which it had taken part, the army considered that, 
as it had honourably defended its colours, it had a just 
right, in its present extreme need, to demand a military 
convention which should leave to it the honours of war 
instead of a capitulation. 

Bismarck replied that, as this aspect did not concern 
him, but must be settled by the King, the Minister of 
War, and von Moltke, he could not give the General 
an immediate answer. He promised, however, to speak 
to the King the same evening, and let the General have 
an answer by the following day, adding — 

"Since your mission is to demand a military con- 
vention, I must tell you beforehand that the King's 
council will not agree to any other conditions than 
those of Sedan." 

General Boyer replied, "I can assure you that a 
military convention on that basis is impossible." 

" But," said Bismarck, " I can bring political con- 
siderations to bear on the King and his council, and 
I can obtain conditions for the French army which I 
will communicate to you to-morrow." 

The General then urged Bismarck to let him know 
what these political considerations were, and the 
Chancellor explained his plan, which was to negotiate 
with the Empress Eegent, since the German Govern- 
ment did not recognize the Government of National 
Defence. But in negotiating with the Empress Eegent, 
Germany intended to reserve advantages no less im- 
portant than those which were conferred by its military 
position in respect of the army of Metz. 

28 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

"Then you will propose negotiations with the 
Empress to the King and his council ? " 

" Yes, certainly. Have you recognized the Govern- 
ment of National Defence ? " 

"No," replied the General, "the army has not 
recognized it. We have received no communication of 
any kind from the Government of the 4th of September, 
and we only accidentally heard of its existence on the 
14th of September, from some prisoners of war who 
had been exchanged. The same day we heard of the 
disaster of Sedan, the capture of the Emperor, and the es- 
tablishment of the Government of the 4th of September. 
We have had a few papers, which those officers were 
able to procure, and we have read a number of orders, 
but we have had no direct communication from the 
Government itself, nor has any official reached us from 
it. We only recognize the Government of the Eegent ; 
we have taken an oath of fidelity to the Emperor, and 
we shall remain true to our oath until the country has 
decided otherwise." 

Bismarck then developed his project. He proposed 
to secure the loyalty of the army to the Government of 
the Eegent by a manifestation, and to prove that the 
army was determined to obey her Majesty the Empress 
in the event of her deciding to sign the preliminaries of 

Boyer then observed that this was impossible. The 
Marshal could not question every one individually ; and 
it would be difficult to ascertain the opinion of the 
army : that would be to demand a kind oipronunciamento, 
which was not customary in the French service. 

" But," said the Chancellor, " this manifestation by 

The Franco-German War 29 

the army is indispensable, for the Empress would not 
commence negotiations, if she did not feel that her 
actions were supported by the army. You will have to 
obtain her Majesty's signature to the preliminaries of 
peace. Under these conditions you can retire with the 
honours of war, taking away your arms, guns, and other 
material of war. Of course the fortress of Metz is not 
included, and is at liberty to defend itself with the 
means in its possession." 

This last condition was secured by General Boyer in 
accordance with his instructions. 

Boyer then observed, " If the army obeys the Empress, 
or is summoned to adhere to her, it will be the first 
duty of Marshal Bazaine, with the assent of the Council 
of War, to assemble the civil powers as they were before 
the 4th of September, at a point previously fixed, and to 
say to them, ' You were gathered together at a sitting 
on the 4th of September ; at the moment the assembly 
was fallen upon, you were in debate : resume it at the 
point it had reached at that period. Whatever your 
decision is, we shall accept it. Even if you declare that 
the Empire has ceased to exist, we are soldiers of the 
nation, and will obey you. If you wish to refer to the 
nation, the army will assist you. Whichever way you 
decide, the army is ready to secure respect for your 
decision.' " 

The second interview took place the following day 
about noon, when the Chancellor visited General Boyer 
at his quarters, and informed him that a convention on 
the terms proposed by the Marshal had at first been 
rejected by the Council, but that upon Bismarck's 
replying that another basis might be proposed, and 

30 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

explaining the political considerations, the Council had 
agreed with his views. " If/' added the Chancellor, 
" you obtain from the Empress her consent to sign the 
preliminaries of a treaty of peace, and if you obtain 
from the army a declaration of its firm determination to 
obey the Empress, you will also obtain the conditions 
which I mentioned to you yesterday : the army mil 
retire with military honours, taking its guns and colours. 
The fortress of Metz is quite outside this convention. 
But you must apply to the Empress. She, as the sole 
remaining authority, is the only one with whom I can 
negotiate, for I will not recognize the Government in 
Paris, and still less the one at Tours. Are you sure 
that the army will follow^ you ? " 

Boyer repeated his remarks of the previous day, and 
Bismarck added, " Do you prefer to go to Wilhelmshohe, 
the present quarters of the Emperor Napoleon ? If so, 
I will have the necessary passes prepared for you or for 
the officer to whom these negotiations may be entrusted." 

General Boyer said that he could not discuss the idea 
of the Council of War sending a negotiator to the 
Emperor, since the fall of Sedan and his capture had 
placed them in a position which it was inadmissible for 
him to discuss, but he believed that the army would 
from that date consider itself solely responsible to the 
Government of the Empress. 

The conversation ended about 2 p.m., having lasted 
about an hour 'and a half, and General Boyer left 
Versailles the same evening, reaching Metz on the 
afternoon of the 17th of October. 

The Franco-German War 31 

Bismarck's Second Inteeview with the Mayor of 
Versailles * 

October 21, 1870 

A second interview with M. Eameau took place on 
the evening of the 21st of October, 1870, immediately 
after the action at Malmaison. Bismarck, who was in 
uniform, was working at a table, though he seemed to 
be rather tired ; he was pasting newspaper paragraphs 
on to white paper by the light of three candles, the 
floor around him being littered with the papers from 
which he had cut them. He was very nervous, breath- 
ing deeply, and every now and then refreshing himself 
with seltzer water. Shaking the Mayor by the hand, 
he thanked him for having kept his appointment, and 
inquired, as if he were merely speaking about the 
weather, " How are matters in the town ? " 

The Mayor, considering this question rather vague, 
replied, " Oh, the town was hopeful to-day, but its 
hope, it seems, has not been realized." He alluded to a 
sortie by the French troops, in which they had beaten 
the Prussians, and had raised the hopes of the inhabit- 
ants to see the French arrive, by creating a panic 
amongst the soldiers quartered in the town. 

" I did not want to see you about that," said the 
Count, with a smile ; " I wished to inquire whether our 
men are guilty of excesses or misbehaviour ? " 

The mayor complained about the enormous burdens 
laid on the town, and added that, having already reported 
various police matters to the town commandant, he did 
* E. Delerot, "Versailles during the Occupation." 

32 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

not consider it necessary to repeat them to Bismarck. 
The latter, avoiding the topic of conversation, observed, 
"You complained about a fine of a hundred francs 
which was inliicted on account of a delay in supplying 
a vehicle." 

The Mayor made a gesture of dissent at the mention 
of a " fine." 

"Well, then," continued Bismarck, "let us lay 
principles aside. It shall not be called a fine, let it 
be a war contribution, an extortion, if you like, but I 
implore you to pay this little sum. So much you can 
do to please me, since I have helped you to obtain the 
remission of a war contribution of 400,000 francs." 

M. Kameau replied that he could not pay a fine for 
an occurrence about which the communal administration 
could not reproach itself with either malice or neglect, 
as it had been impossible to procure the vehicle. 

" In case of need, you might have requisitioned the 
carriage which I hire for my personal use, and I should 
have said nothing. But a Eoyal courier, who had an 
urgent message, could not get away, although relays 
costing 800 francs had to be employed, and as the object 
was not attained, we expect some reparation." 

Bismarck here paused, as if he wished to change the 

" It is curious," he remarked suddenly, " how little 
you seem to know in France, and especially here in 
Versailles, of the real meaning of a state of war. When 
the signal to ' mount ' is sounded, the male portion of 
the population should remain at home, otherwise they 
might be fired upon ; but instead of that, your country- 
men come out full of curiosity, crowding together in 

The Franco-German War 33 

the squares and avenues, and seem to await the further 
march of events so as to take part in them if necessary. 
Such a course might be fraught with evil consequences 
for them. When I rode out to the troops to-day, there 
were more than three hundred inquisitive persons in 
the Eue de Province ; I made a complaint about this, 
and the sentry was placed under arrest, because he had 
not dispersed the crowd after giving them a final 
warning. To-day we had one sortie from Paris, and 
another from Mont Valerien. Twenty battalions moved 
out, to-morrow there may be forty, and the alarm 
signals may be repeated. Caution the inhabitants, 
therefore, to remain at home, for we wish to save you 
from a grave misfortune. When certain persons, for 
instance, the King, Herr von Moltke, or I, appear in 
the streets, a crowd immediately collects ; this is most 
annoying to us. As soon as I am recognized, they 
run after me. Lately I returned home from the Pre- 
fecture in the evening, when two or three persons fol- 
lowed close behind me. One of them kept his right 
hand in his pocket ; he might have been an assassin, 
and I was quite prepared for a knife-thrust. If such 
a thing had happened to one of our young officers, he 
would at once have drawn his sword and set to ; such 
is the custom of war. I did not do so, but merely had 
the man, who was following close on my heels, arrested 
by the next sentry, and when they told me he was 
known in the quarter, I allowed the matter to drop. 
But you must inform the inhabitants, not by procla- 
mation, but through your agents, that this kind of thing 
must cease." 

Another pause ensued. The conversation had 


34 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

apparently not yet reached its main point. Bismarck 
took a cigar, and, offering one to the Mayor, who 
declined it, said — 

" You will, however, permit me to smoke ? " 

M. Eameau bowed in assent. 

" Well, then, Mr. Mayor, it seems as if we are to 
spend the winter with you, and yet I greatly long to 
return to Berlin." 

" The matter is certainly not less unpleasant for us," 
replied the Mayor. " But why must it be so ? " 

" No peace is possible without elections," replied the 
Count. " At present there is no one who can assume 
the responsibility of negotiating for France; neither 
Count Chambord, the Orleans, nor the Empress Eegent. 
And yet France and Germany both want peace. We 
shall be compelled to negotiate with Napoleon III., and 
force him on you." 

" You will not do that ! France would regard it as 
a bitter insult ! " 

" But it is to the interest of the victors to leave the 
vanquished in the hands of an authority, who can be 
supported by a Pretorian Guard, because then war will 
not again be so easily contemplated. The extent to 
which the Imperial Government has pushed corruption 
is incredible. Are you acquainted with the papers 
which have been found in the Tuileries ? " 

" No, Count ; you know that we have been quite cut 
off for more than a month." 

"Very remarkable papers, these! There are also 
leaders of the democratic party who are compromised 
by them. I must have the things published in our 
little paper, Nouvelliste de Versailles." Then, after a 

The Franco-German War 35 

fresh pause, " But you are wrong in believing that 
Napoleon III. has no more adherents in the country ; 
he has the army still." 

As the Mayor shook his head, the Chancellor con- 
tinued — 

" Marshal Bazaine sent General Boyer to me in 
Napoleon's name to negotiate for peace. If we allowed 
the garrison of Metz to retire, they would march to the 
Gironde, having pledged themselves to remain there 
quietly for three months and await events, and we could 
then dispose of the 200,000 men who are investing 
Metz. We can form seven armies, occupy the whole of 
France, and live at your expense. Paris reckons on the 
provinces, and the provinces reckon on Paris. That is a 
twofold error. Paris possesses an army which sufi&ces 
to garrison a fortress, but which cannot take the field 
because it lacks cavalry and artillery, and is not 
organized. With regard to the provinces, since Orleans 
we know what to think of the Army of the Loire : ruins 
and fragments, which cannot be put together again ! The 
departments already complain that nothing is referred 
to the country. In the north only Lille is still in favour 
of war, but in the vicinity of Eouen and Havre, whither 
we have sent troops, public opinion will have nothing 
to do with further resistance. Several towns are poHced 
by our troops and the inhabitants together." 

"Perhaps, Count, you regard the circumstance that 
the town of Versailles submits to your police regulations 
as a symptom of wavering patriotism." 

" By no means. If a town, occupied by the victors, 
aids them in protecting the pubHc safety by arresting 
thieves, etc., it is done in the cause of humanity and 

36 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

out of respect for the laws of society, and has nothing to 
do with patriotism." 

Since Bismarck seemed neither inclined to break the 
ensuing pause nor to end the interview, M. Eameau 
suggested that, as Germany, according to the Chancellor, 
was not making a war of conquest, the basis of the peace 
might be the status quo ante helium, for which purpose 
both countries should raze their frontier fortresses to 
the ground. 

"But the circumstances are not the same on both 
sides," objected Bismarck. "With the exception of 
1792, when it was borne along by the general current, 
Prussia has never attacked France, whilst France, under 
Louis XIV., the Eepublic, and the two Napoleons 
successively, has made war on us twenty-three times ; 
even under the Eestoration she would have done the 
same in company with Eussia, had not the July 
Eevolution broken out." 

The Mayor next suggested a partial disarmament, 
which might also be forced upon the greater part of 
Europe. The question of an authority to negotiate the 
armistice led to an assurance from Count Bismarck that 
the necessary passes enabling the Paris deputies to travel 
to Tours would be granted. 

M. Eameau expressed a wish to enter Paris and 
endeavour to persuade the Committee of National 
Defence to adopt his suggestions. Bismarck replied — 

"I would not advise you to go. Peace proposals 
emanating from my initiative would find no hearing 
there ; they would be regarded as a proof that we wished 
to continue the war, and on that account alone would 
be rejected. In your own interest, do not attempt it." 

The Franco-German War 37 

" I am a Ee publican, Count, and a good Eepublican 
always places ttie common interest before his own." 

" In that sense I too am a Eepublican, only I regard 
a hereditary head as an important hostage. But I will 
give you a proof that you will not succeed. America 
is the only country which really takes an interest in 
France. Four American Generals (Sheridan, Bumside, 
etc.) have applied to me regarding a peace. They were 
then in Paris, and on their return reported, ' Nothing 
can be done. With the exception of Trochu, who said, 
" We have not been beaten severely enough to be able 
to negotiate," none of them will listen to any mention of 
peace. They will not even ask the country. They are 
not true Eepublicans, but are either fools or tyrants.' 
I will not cause you pain by repeating all the expres- 
sions which the Americans used about the personnel of 
your Government. They will yet succeed in breaking 
France into pieces." 

" Then I certainly shall not go to Paris," said the 

The interview ended by the Chancellor requesting the 
Mayor to hand the " indemnity " of 100 francs to a M. 
Poidevin, who had succoured an injured Prussian in 

Thiers and Bismarck* 
Versailles, October ZO-Novemder 4 and 6, 1870 

M. Thiers arrived at Versailles on the 30th of 
October, 1870, after a very fatiguing journey. Hotly 
contested actions were being fought round Orleans, 
♦ •' Enqu^te Parlementaire," M. Thiers' evidence. 

38 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

railway communication had been interrupted, and, as 
no post-horses could be provided, artillery horses were 
taken from the guns and harnessed to his carriage, 
and thus he arrived at Versailles, where he found 
Bismarck awaiting him. 

The French statesman's first remark was, " I can 
only tell you that I have nothing to report." 

Bismarck replied, "I will give you two officers to 
precede you, and if you should meet with an accident — 
every letter costs me a life; you will be safe in the 
hands of the Germans — these gentlemen will remain 
at your disposal. I think it will take you many days 
before you convince the leading men ; but the officers 
commissioned to accompany you will be there, ready 
to escort you back when you give them the signal 
to fetch you." 

Thiers and his companions arrived at the outpost 
line, but the firing was so protracted that it was not 
easy for the party to make themselves understood. 
Two small boats were found on the bank of the Seine, 
and Thiers crossed over the river, after saying to the 
officers, "Expect me daily at four o'clock, at which 
time I shall endeavour to get out of Paris, if I have 
full powers to return to the German headquarters." 

At 2 p.m. on the following day Thiers returned to 
the appointed spot, and, having given the signal, saw 
the two German officers appear. The same boat 
served for his re'turn to the German bank of the river, 
and in a short while he reached Versailles. Bismarck, 
on hearing of his arrival, was much astonished at his 
speedy and safe return, and sent an officer to con- 
gratulate him. 

The Franco-German War 39 

At the interview, which commenced at 11 a.m. on 
the 1st of November, Thiers demanded a month's 
supplies of food. Count Bismarck replied, " You make 
a somewhat exaggerated demand, for Paris is already 
on half-rations, and now you ask for whole rations 
for a month. Nevertheless, I am ready to concede 
this; the King would consent, but the soldiers con- 
sider an armistice disadvantageous to us. You ask 
for more than you hope to get, and doubtless this is 
not your only request." 

Thiers replied, " No ; it is not my last word regarding 
the multitude." 

" Well, then," said the Prussian minister, " put it 
on paper, so that we may have something definite to 

Thiers drew up a memorandum, and handed it to 
Bismarck, who found fault only with the quantities 
of supplies demanded; and by this he allowed it to 
be noticed that an understanding on this point would 
be arrived at. 

The negotiations were continued the following day. 
It can readily be understood that Thiers strove to give 
Bismarck the most favourable impression of his tour 
round the Courts of London, Vienna, Petersburg, and 
Turin, for he particularly wished Bismarck to believe 
that he had received numerous proofs of sympathy from 
"his friend" Prince Gortschakoff, and that if Germany 
did not cut short her victorious progress through 
France, Eussia might at length grow angry. Thereupon 
Bismarck got up and rang the bell. "Bring me the 
portfolio with the Ptussian papers." A portfolio was 
brought in, which he handed to M. Thiers, saying, 

40 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" Eead these ; there you will find thirty letters, which 
have been sent me from St. Petersburg." M. Thiers 
read them, and abandoned all further representations. 

At the fifth meeting, which took place on the 3rd 
of November, M. Thiers found Bismarck disquieted, 
depressed, and much excited. 

" Have you any news from Paris ? " asked the 


" Well, a revolution has taken place, and has changed 

Thiers was not exactly surprised at this, since he 
was acquainted with the condition of the capital, which 
he had quitted only four days ago, though he refused 
to believe the news. 

"Such an attempt has probably been made," he 
replied, " but it will have been suppressed : the National 
Guard will not allow anarchy to triumph." 

"I know nothing about it," replied Bismarck, and 
then read aloud a number of outpost reports, each one 
more confusing than the other. It struck Thiers that 
Bismarck himself was seriously put out by the news 
from Paris, for he evidently wished for peace, and did 
not conceal his fear that a revolution in Paris would 
lessen the chances of obtaining it. 

Bismarck then asked Thiers whether he could ascer- 
tain exactly what had happened in Paris. M. Thiers 
had two capable 'and courageous secretaries, MM. Ee- 
musat and Cochery, one of whom he offered to send 
to Paris for news. Bismarck sent officers to accompany 
M. Cochery (the first of the two secretaries whom 
M. Thiers met), and their return was anxiously 

The Franco-German War 41 

awaited, so that the new situation might be fully 

Thiers saw Bismarck several times that day, for a 
new fact had cropped up which greatly aggravated the 
situation: this was the proclamation published at 
Tours concerning the surrender of Metz. The violence 
with which the actual or supposed authors of the 
capitulation were condemned had excited everybody in 
Versailles in the highest degree. 

"The King wished for peace," said Bismarck to 
Thiers, " and he was inclined to grant an armistice in 
the hope that the passions of the war party would 
calm down. He has resisted the war-party in Prussia 
— for I will not conceal the fact that our soldiers are 
against the armistice, as they think that an armistice 
will only prolong your resistance, and they say that 
we must immediately conclude a peace or continue the 
attack on Paris. And now this new revolution in 
Paris and the language used at Tours have discouraged 
all those who hoped that these passions were allayed ; 
this fresh outburst on your part has re-awakened our 
fears. Yesterday I was full of confidence, to-day I 
have utterly lost it." 

Bismarck had only spoken the truth. Thiers was 
acquainted with several diplomatists and princes present 
in Versailles, and all the news which he was able to 
collect showed him that many changes had taken place 
within the last twenty-four hours. 

Cochery returned during the night, having met with 
great difficulties on the way. Thiers learnt from him 
that a revolution had been attempted on the 31st — the 
day of his departure from Paris — and that, though it 

42 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

had been suppressed, the half-conquered anarchists, 
unwittingly supported by honourable people whose 
misguided patriotism had been over-excited by the 
events of Metz, had nevertheless obtained the complete 
mastery of Paris. 

Once more M. Thiers had an interview with Bismarck, 
and communicated to him all that he had learnt. Bis- 
marck was as well posted as Thiers, but the latter was 
convinced that if he could but achieve the acceptance 
of that which Bismarck called the " First volume of 
peace," i.e. the armistice, he could not, with the best 
will in the world, obtain the acceptance of the second. 

" If I thought," said Bismarck, " that the publisher 
would bring out the second volume, I would wdlKngly 
assist you in publishing the first." He then informed 
him of the conditions of the armistice : either no food 
supplies to be brought in, or the surrender of a fort ; 
but Thiers was not empowered to agree to any such 
conditions, and he was therefore obliged to break off 
the negotiations. 

Thiers and Bismarck looked at one another, and 
asked almost simultaneously whether an immediate 
peace was not possible. The night was spent in 
arguments, and Thiers realized that a peace was then 
possible — painful without doubt, but not as painful as 
the one which would be forced upon them later on. He 
decided to proceed to Paris immediately to try and 
obtain the acceptance of such a peace, but Bismarck 
advised him not to do so, since he would certainly not 
escape from the madmen who ruled Paris. Thiers 
considered these dangers, although very real, to be 
exaggerated, and told Bismarck that he could achieve 


The Franco-German War 43 

nothing unless lie went to Paris himself; so he 
decided to make a rendezvous with the members of 
the Government at a point which they might select, 
in order to learn their opinions on a question which 
constituted the salvation of their country. 

He despatched M. Cochery, who had already suc- 
ceeded in reaching Paris, and arranged for a meeting at 
the Bridge of Sevres. On the following day, Thiers 
went to that spot, and was taken to an abandoned 
house, ruined by shells, in the Bois de Boulogne. Here 
he encountered only Jules Favre and General Ducrot. 
The former explained that at the moment it was im- 
possible to bring the populace of Paris to a reasonable 
decision, and though he entirely agreed with Thiers' 
proposal, which, under the existing unhappy circum- 
stances, he considered to be wise and acceptable, 
apparently the Paris Commune was already in com- 
mand of the situation, although the de facto govern- 
ment of the capital was not yet in their hands. 

Thiers sorrowfully took leave of Jules Favre, and 
returned to Versailles, where he awaited a final despatch 
from the Government of the National Defence with 
regard to the discontinuance of these negotiations, which 
had become quite useless. He left the Chancellor greatly 
perturbed about the continuation of the struggle. 

Bismarck and Jules Favre* 
Versailles, January 2Z-February 1, 1871 

On learning from Pelletier that the food supplies of 
Paris were practically exhausted, M. Jules Favre sent 
* " EnquSte Parlementaire." 

44 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

an officer to ask Bismarck for an interview, but without 
assigning any reason for so doing. The request was 
granted, and Favre arrived at Versailles about 8 p.m., 
having been forced to make a long detour, because of 
the threats of the reckless populace. 

Favre opened the conversation by boldly declaring 
that Paris had sufficient supplies for six months, and 
that it had been decided to undertake fresh military 
operations. He mentioned the fact of General Trochu's 
dismissal as a proof of this assertion, and said that his 
journey had been undertaken at the risk of his life, 
owing to the excitement of the population. " Paris is 
about to assault your lines ; I do not know what the 
issue of this action will be ; it may fail, but to avoid 
unnecessary sacrifices I propose the following condi- 

After Favre had stated his demands, Bismarck 
replied, " It is too late ; I have already opened nego- 
tiations with the Imperial family." (This was a feint 
of Bismarck's, in reply to Pavre's representations about 
the brilliant situation of Paris.) 

The Chancellor observed later on that he was con- 
fronted by three pretenders — Napoleon, the Eegency, 
and Prince Napoleon — and that he was at Liberty to 
negotiate with one or the other of these three represen- 
tatives of the Imperial regime. He then mentioned 
the individual who had conducted the negotiations in 
question, and asked Pavre, " What is your opinion of 
this man — this being to a certain extent a counsel's 
consultation ? " 

Favre gave his opinion, and added that he did not 
consider such a combination to be possible. At the 

The Franco- German War 45 

conclusion of the interview Bismarck requested his 
opponent to put his demands on paper. Favre, how- 
ever, objected, on the ground that if the negotiations 
fell through, the document might be of service to the 
German statesman. 

On Bismarck's replying, " On my word of honour as 
a gentleman, I only require it to show to the King, in 
order to inform him of the basis of our conversation," 
Favre then wrote down his four conditions in pencil : 
an armistice — for he refused to speak of a 'peace, — the 
convocation of the National Assembly; the Prussian 
army not to enter Paris ; the army of Paris to remain 
prisoners of war in Paris, and not to be removed to 

The real work of negotiation commenced on the 
following day (24th), when Bismarck opened the con- 
versation with the remark that the King had empowered 
him to negotiate for an armistice. 

The Chancellor, however, remained firm in regard to 
the entry of the Germans into Paris, mentioning the 
will of the King and the generals as an almost insur- 
mountable obstacle. The other French conditions were 
conceded, though Bismarck made all manner of objec- 
tions, and Favre was successful in retaining the French 
troops in Paris, instead of their being divided into two 
camps under the walls of Paris. 

" It is to your interest," the Chancellor said, referring 
to this point, " since disarmed and vanquished soldiers 
may become a great danger in a large city in the midst 
of all kinds of excitements." 

Favre admitted the danger, but declared that he had 
great confidence in the inhabitants of Paris as well as 

46 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

in the National Guard, and hoped that the soldiers 
would be kept under control. 

To Favre's objection that he was not in a position to 
arrange military questions, Bismarck replied, " We are 
both in such a position that our signatures will suffice. 
For my part I can conclude any kind of treaty, and you 
can do the same, as you are accredited by your Govern- 
ment. I accept this Government just as it stands, and 
I believe that we two can settle everything." 

Favre then returned to Paris and communicated the 
result of these interviews to the Ministerial Council, 
and it was decided that he should return to Versailles 
the following day, as, of course, only the general con- 
ditions were under discussion. 

At the third interview, on the 25th of January, Favre 
desired the assistance of a French officer in discussing 
military matters. Bismarck, who had in the mean time 
consulted Moltke, said, " I told you yesterday that we 
did not require one, for at the time I did not know 
whether we had to settle these questions definitely. 
Now, however, it is necessary that you should bring a 
general with you to-morrow, and I should like to have 
General Schmitz, as he is the Chief of General Trochu's 
staff. We have only one condition — a capitulation 
must be signed by the Chief of the General's staff." 

Bismarck at first expressly demanded the surrender 
of Belfort, and this Favre absolutely refused to consent 
to. The French 'Were in complete ignorance regarding 
the situation and the fate of the Army of the East, 
which might afford valuable assistance to that besieged 
fortress. It was therefore agreed to await the arrival 
of news, which might be expected at any moment. 

The Franco-German War 47 

Unfortunately, no reports were received between the 
24th and the 28th, or, at any rate, they were not 
communicated to the French. But the Government of 
National Defence could not allow the negotiations to 
suffer the least delay without exposing Paris to the 
danger of starvation. If the French Government had 
not negotiated, it would have been compelled to sur- 
render (at discretion) that very day. It was therefore 
decided to put off the delimitation of the neutral point 
concerning the Army of the East until the respective 
conditions of the combatants were known, and mean- 
while hostilities were to cease at once. 

It was eight o'clock before Bismarck and Favre 
agreed to order the cannonade to cease at midnight, 
and, although Favre used his utmost endeavours, he did 
not reach Paris until about 10 p.m. 

The next day General de Beaufort d'Hautpoul accom- 
panied Jules Favre, but he appears to have been un- 
suitable for the purpose in hand, for Favre reported to 
his Government, " I cannot go to Versailles again with 
Beaufort ; let us follow the rule, and give me General 
Valdau, the Chief of the General Staff." 

After the armistice had been signed (January 28), 
the following telegram was sent to Gambetta at Bor- 
deaux by Favre : " Nous avons signe un armistice, 
faites-le immediatement executer jpartout." This tele- 
gram was written about 11 p.m. with the same pen 
with which Favre signed the capitulation. Later on 
it was asserted that this momentous message was 
worded by Bismarck, or was, at least, composed under 
his supervision ; but this has been denied by Bismarck. 
During the days which followed the signature of 

48 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

the armistice, Favre busied himself with endeavouring 
to get the neutral zone fixed, and also with Bismarck's 
declaration that he would have Garibaldi shot if he 
fell into the hands of the Germans, as he was a free- 
booter, and had no right to bear arms against Prussia. 
Favre, however, insisted on Garibaldi being included in 
the armistice. 

As the French National Assembly was about to 
meet at Bordeaux (February 12, 1871) Jules Favre 
said to the Chancellor, "The National Assembly is 
about to meet ; inform me confidentially of your con- 
ditions, if you will. I shall be able to arrange the 
further details." 

Bismarck, however, declined to do so, and Favre 
had to depart in ignorance of the demands which 
Germany intended to make. 

Thiers and Jules Favee at Versailles * 
February 21-26, 1871 

Having quitted Bordeaux on February 19, the two 
French negotiators arrived in Paris on the following 
day. There was, indeed, no time to be lost, for the 
armistice was to end on February 21. 

M. Thiers alone proceeded to Versailles, where 
Bismarck accorded him a sympathetic reception, and 
obtained an extension of the armistice without any 
trouble. The Chancellor, however, remained unshaken 
with regard to the conditions of peace, which his royal 
master had ordered him to insist upon as an ultimatum. 

* Jules Favre, " Simple recit d'un membre du Gouveraement do 
la d(5feiise nationale." 

The Franco-German War 49 

France was to cede the whole of Alsace, including 
Belfort, the town and fortifications of Metz, and the 
greater part of the departments of the Moselle and 
Meurthe, besides paying an indemnity of six milliards. 

Thiers made no attempt to conceal his consternation, 
and informed the Chancellor that he was greatly mis- 
taken if he thought that France was so exhausted that 
she had to accept dishonouring or impossible conditions. 
To demand two of the finest provinces, and to take 
away their inhabitants against their will and disregard- 
ing their opinions and feelings, would, he feared, be 
an act of violence to which the country would not 
submit. The indemnity demanded was so fabulous a 
sum, that it was difficult to believe that it could be 
meant seriously. One's powers of imagination failed to 
grasp the financial operations necessary to support this 
burden. Not only would double the national savings 
be absorbed, but capitalists and landed proprietors 
would be ruined, and a dislocation of European finance 
would result, which would become a public disaster. 
He concluded by requesting to see the King, in order 
to convince himself of the truth of these statements. 

Bismarck then brought word that the King would 
willingly receive M. Thiers, but requested that politics 
might not be touched on, as he could not depart from 
his rule of leaving to the Federal Chancellor the dis- 
cussion of public affairs. 

The second interview, on February 22, also took 
place in the absence of Jules Favre. In reply to 
repeated entreaties to reconsider the amount of the 
indemnity, Bismarck observed that the sum which 
seemed so enormous to him would be thought 


50 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

insufficient in Germany, where the ransom of France 
was estimated at twelve and even sixteen milliards. 
Even this sum would not suffice to compensate for 
the damages incurred, whilst the reduction to six 
milliards would be taken as a sign of weakness. The 
Chancellor added that long discussions were not neces- 
sary, and that the King had formally expressed the 
wish that a fresh extension of the armistice might 
be avoided; so he would have a treaty elaborated, 
and the various articles could be discussed singly. It 
was a question of a few short and comprehensive 
resolutions, which could not give rise to serious con- 
troversies, since they would practically form an 

Thiers strongly opposed this procedure, for he had 
not abandoned the hope of being heard by coming to 
Versailles. He also resented the pressure brought to 
bear on him to sign a document without discussion, 
as this would ruin his country and break it up into 
fragments. Prussia, in signing the armistice, had 
pledged herself to enter upon negotiations with the 
National Assembly, convoked for that purpose, and 
such negotiations must mean discussions, mutual ex- 
planations, and even concessions if the interests of 
both parties demanded it. He would not refuse to 
give his opinion in examining the draft, but he expressly 
reserved his right to propose alterations. 

No reply was vouchsafed to these remarks, as the 
Chancellor at once returned to the question of the 
indemnity, and wished to demonstrate that the amount 
was neither excessive nor hard to pay. " We have fore- 
seen everything," he said, " and we are greatly inclined 

The Franco-German War 51 

to help you out of your difficulty. Two of our highest 
financiers have planned a combination which will make 
the payment of this apparently enormous sum almost 
easy for you. If you accept their support, we shall 
have solved a great part of the question ; the rest will 
not give any trouble." 

However, the services of Count Henckel and Bleich- 
roder were not accepted, and on February 23 Thiers 
again went to Versailles, accompanied this time by 
Jules Favre, in whose presence all subsequent nego- 
tiations took place. 

Bismarck commenced by informing them that the 
King had consented to reduce the indemnity by one 
milliard francs. Again the French negotiators argued 
about the principle of this demand, though they con- 
ceded that the victors had a right to demand the 
expenses of the war, and also a proportionate compen- 
sation for damages. They denied them the right, how- 
ever, of speculating on their success, and of enriching 
themselves at the cost of the vanquished. Plunder had 
long since been condemned by civilized nations even 
during the campaign. Though a commander might 
procure necessary supplies for his men by forcible 
requisition, he was forbidden to appropriate the posses- 
sions of the inhabitants by looting ; how much more, 
then, was it against the universally respected laws of 
society to establish by treaty that the victorious nation, 
after obtaining a tribute more than sufficient to cover 
its losses, might seize the wealth of its vanquished foe ! 

In applying this elementary legal principle to the 
situation of France, Thiers and Favre demonstrated 
that two milliards would amply cover the war expenses 

52 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of Germany, and that a demand of five milliards was 
a veritable robbery. 

Again the Chancellor denied the statements made 
regarding the German losses caused by the war. 
Germany was morally justified in demanding the 
cession of territory and the payment of the indemnity ; 
discussion was therefore out of place. He did not 
appear perturbed by the statement that the loss of the 
provinces would unavoidably lead to another war later 
on, and replied, " We are aware of that ; we reckon on 
a conflict, and hope that we shall not be taken unawares." 

The French negotiators then directed all their efforts 
to saving Metz and Belfort from the misfortune of 
annexation. According to Favre's narrative, M. Thiers 
succeeded in moving the Iron Chancellor by his noble 
bearing and his eloquence, now imploring, now threaten- 
ing, until Bismarck withdrew to ascertain the King's 
wishes regarding Belfort, and to confer with Moltke. 
After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, he returned 
with the information that the King had gone out and 
would not be back before dinner, and that Moltke was 
also away ; half an hour later Moltke was announced, 
and Bismarck conferred with him alone. 

At the end of another mauvais quart d^heure, Bismarck 
opened the door of the adjoining room, and, standing 
on the threshold, said, " In pursuance of the King's 
desire, I have had to demand the entry of our troops 
into Paris. You have explained your anxieties to me, 
and requested that this clause be omitted. We will 
concede this if you leave us Belfort." 

Bismarck thought that the French would be unable 
to withstand the temptation of withdrawing the capital 

The Franco-German War 53 

from the grasp of the victors. Thiers, however, 
declared that Paris was ready to drink the cup of 
humiliation to the dregs, and that the grief of the 
capital would be the ransom of Belfort. 

" Think over it well," replied Bismarck. " You may 
perhaps regret having refused this offer." 

" We should be untrue to our duty if we accepted it," 
said Thiers. 

The door was again closed for Bismarck's conference 
with Moltke to be continued. The Chancellor after- 
wards told the French negotiators that it only remained 
to gain the ling's consent, for which he would have to 
wait until dinner was over. 

At length, about 8 p.m., Thiers reaped the fruit of 
his exertions, and France retained Belfort. 

Two separate documents of the same date were 
decided on — the one to extend and regulate the armis- 
tice, the other to specify the conditions of the peace 

The armistice was to be extended to March 12, in 
order that the National Assembly might have the 
necessary time to deliberate. Another clause provided 
for the entry of the Germans into Paris. 

The regions occupied by the Germans were to be 
handed over in proportion to the payment of five 
milliards. Bismarck, however, made the concession 
that the territorial guarantee for the payment of the 
last three milliards might be replaced by a financial 
one, to be approved of by the Emperor. 

In discussing these matters the Chancellor remarked 
that he had great confidence in the honesty of the 
French negotiators, but that in his eyes the sincerity of 

54 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

France was rather doubtful. The French nation had 
not changed ; they only thought of beginning the war 
again, and would seize every opportunity with avidity 
to gratify their patriotic passions. Consequently, since 
he could not reckon on a loyal execution of French 
promises, he was obliged to ask for material guarantees. 
However, it was not impossible for France to find suffi- 
cient securities. If, for instance, the firm of Rothschild 
offered Germany a surety with their signature, he would 
have no further objection to the withdrawal of the 
German troops after the payment of the first two 

The following day (25th) found Bismarck in an 
exceptional state of annoyance and irritation ; he re- 
proached Thiers with returning to matters already dis- 
cussed and settled, and with aiming at the withdrawal 
of concessions he had already made. All this, he alleged, 
was done with a view to resuming military operations. 
The reason of this outbreak was attributed to a despatch 
of Lord Granville handed to Bismarck by Odo Eussell 
the day before. This belief was confirmed by the fol- 
lowing words which fell from the Chancellor's lips : " I 
can see clearly that you have no other object than to 
resume the struggle ; and in doing so you will have the 
support and advice of your good friends, the English." 

Jules Favre begged him to explain the meaning of 
his words, and added that Bismarck of all men should 
know how impossible it was for them to cherish the 
motives attributed to them. But the longer the inter- 
view lasted the more irritable the Chancellor became ; 
he declared that he was ill and out of sorts, and that 
the negotiations were drawn out on purpose. At last 

The Franco-German War 55 

his anger broke out completely, and, striding up and 
down the room, he declared — 

" I think I am very considerate in taking all the 
trouble which you put me to. Our conditions are an 
ultimatum; you can accept or decline them. I will 
hear nothing more about it. Bring an interpreter with 
you to-morrow ; I will not speak French any more ! " 
and with that he commenced to talk aloud in German. 

The announcement of dinner at five o'clock put an end 
to the scene, and on resuming the negotiations Bismarck 
appeared to his French colleagues to be desirous of 
making them forget the violent scene they had witnessed. 

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, the 26th of February, 1871, 
Thiers and Jules Favre returned to Versailles to sign 
the peace treaty. Whilst they were waiting for the 
documents to be got ready, a general conversation 
ensued, at the end of which Bismarck said, " I consider 
it advisable that my colleagues from Bavaria, Wiirtem- 
berg, and Baden should be present." 

The French statesmen had no objection to the presence 
of these representatives, whose reception by Bismarck 
was hardly calculated to make them abandon their 
modest rSle. They were permitted to hear the treaty 
read and to sign it, which they did without remark. 

With a beaming face, Bismarck, before signing his 
name, called for a gold pen, which had been presented 
to him for the purpose. Thiers attached his signature 
in silence, without betraying the emotion which he felt, 
and Jules Favre followed his example. The French 
negotiators then took their leave. 

Bismarck's task was ended : it was worthy of the 
great statesman. 

56 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Bismarck and the Paris Contribution* 

Towards the end of February, 1871, a report was 
spread that the German head-quarters would not 
return to Germany on the appointed date, as the city 
of Paris had stopped the payment of its contribution, 
amounting to 200 million francs. 

This report was confirmed, but it soon appeared that 
there was no reason to fear the resumption of hostilities. 
MM. Jules Favre and Pouyer-Quertier went to the 
Chancellor and told him that, though the Banque de 
France was ready to hand over the balance of the con- 
tribution, amounting to 100 millions, it was unable to 
do so for want of — money-bags. To hand over the 
coins in bulk would cause great inconvenience and loss 
of time both to the payer and the receiver. 

Bismarck at once grasped the difficulty of the situa- 
tion, and offered to afford any assistance in his power. 
German manufacturers were at once ordered to send 
canvas to Paris to be made up into bags. But the 
Finance Minister had yet another difficulty to contend 

*' Your Excellency," he remarked, " according to the 
law the Banque de France charges seventy-five centimes 
for each money-bag, and this amount " 

" We will willingly pay for every bag," interrupted 
Bismarck, and the bill (for over 23,500 francs) was 
paid without demi^r. 

These canvas bags were in use for many years at the 
Eeichshank, though few of its customers knew, perhaps, 
how important a part they once played. Each bag 

* " Tagliche Kundscliau." 



The Franco-German War 57 

contained the same amount of gold coin, and on being 
counted not one of them proved to be short. This was 
also true of the payments made in paper, although one 
forged note of 100 thalers was discovered. The forgery- 
was an excellent one, correct in every detail, with the 
exception that the words, "He who hands William or 
Bismarck over alive to the Government of the French 
Eepublic will receive the sum of ten million francs," 
were substituted in lieu of the penal declaration. This 
forged note was sold at once as an interesting memento 
of the war for 100 thalers, if only to avoid a monitum 
from the Exchequer. The expenditure of 23,500 francs 
for the bags was also passed, after the French law and 
the custom of the Banque on this point had been 

Negotiations at Frankfort-on-the-Main, 
May 6—10, 1871 * 

The first meeting of the French plenipotentiaries, MM. 
Jules Favre and Pouyer-Quertier, with the Chancellor 
of the German Empire took place on Saturday, May 6, 
1871, at the Hotel Zum Schwan. After alluding to 
events connected with the Paris insurrection, Favre 
assured Prince Bismarck of the sincere desire of the 
French Government to avoid all misconceptions and 
misunderstandings which might hinder the conclusion 
of a peace. 

" These events," replied Bismarck, " are of such im- 
portance that Germany would be justified in regarding 

* Jules Favre, " Simple Re'cit," etc. 

58 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

the treaty of February 26 as no longer binding, since 
the execution of the principal resolutions has become 
impossible. Germany, if she wishes, can either revoke 
the treaty or hold you to an exact execution of the 
obligations thereby imposed on you. An entirely 
new situation has arisen, and must be taken into con- 
sideration. This is imperatively demanded by our in- 
terests, which become more and more involved. In 
my last despatches I have continually pointed this 
out. We do not suspect the good faith of the French 
Government, but we fear that it does not possess the 
power of surmounting the threatening obstacles. At 
the time we opened up communications, the Govern- 
ment appeared at least to be invested with full sove- 
reignty; to-day it is expelled from the capital, after 
besieging the city for almost two months without much 
prospect of taking it. Triumphant in Paris, the insur- 
rection may, at any moment, break out in several large 
towns. If the insurrection is victorious, its leaders 
will hasten to turn against us the forces whose organi- 
zation we have permitted. United with the troops of 
the Commune, they will be able to throw themselves 
on our forces and compel us to commence a fresh 
bloody struggle. We cannot take the risk of these 
eventualities. The treaty of the 26th of February has 
also been violated in other respects. Article III. settles 
that immediately after ratification, and in accordance 
with an agreement between the two Governments, nine 
of the occupied departments are to be wholly vacated, 
and six others as far as the left bank of the Seine; 
that the French army is to retire behind the Loire; 
and that the Eastern departments are also to be vacated 

The Franco-German War 59 

after the payment of the first half-milliard. By this 
method the greater part of our army was to return to 
Germany after a brief period, and the unbearable and 
ruinously expensive absence of the troops was to come 
to an end. You surely know the sufferings imposed 
on our people by the absence of the troops and the 
burdens on our Exchequer connected therewith. In 
calculating the number of our troops for whom you 
have to provide supplies, an error of 150,000 men was 
made against us by our commissaries. We made no 
claim, because we thought that it was only a matter of 
a few days. To-day this error costs us several millions, 
and the expense is still increasing. Your Government 
does not appear to take these matters into consideration. 
We have allowed you to raise your army to more than 
100,000 combatants; we have sent back more than 
80,000 prisoners of war, and you now demand more. 
You seem to prolong the siege of Paris to an eternity ; 
nor have you even returned the captured ships. We 
will not, we cannot, follow you further on this path. 
On the other hand, your Brussels plenipotentiaries 
systematically prolong the negotiations, which are to 
result in a definite peace, and endeavour to modify the 
conditions of the preliminary treaty to your advantage, 
and are in no way concerned to hasten your tasks. In 
this way everything is brought into question, and we 
see our guarantees dwindling away. The Emperor has 
ordered me to ask for new pledges, and to arrange for a 
supplementary treaty on those points. If you decline 
to accede to such a treaty, we shall demand from you 
the exact execution of the treaty of the 26th of February, 
and in particular the retirement behind the Loire of 

6o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

that portion of your army which exceeds 40,000 men. 
We shall reserve our freedom of action regarding the 
suppression of the Paris insurrection, as well as the 
locality of the future negotiations, which cannot be 
continued at Brussels." 

Favre retorted that the German proposals were tan- 
tamount to a resumption of hostilities. France had 
reached the furthest limits of her sacrifices, and to 
demand more would only drive her to a war of de- 
spair. As a proof of the honest and loyal intention of 
his Government, Jules Favre offered to negotiate a 
definite peace there and then. The fall of the Paris 
Commune was only a question of time, but if the army 
was forced to retire behind the Loire, the Commune 
would at once become securely established; nay, the 
very mention of German intervention would at once 
recruit their ranks. On the other hand, if the peace 
were to be signed at once, a fresh weapon would be 
given to the French Government for the suppression of 
the Commune. 

The Chancellor replied, " I do not absolutely decline 
this solution ; I am even inclined to prefer it to any 
other : that will be sufficient proof for you that we in 
no way cherish the intention of driving you to extremes, 
for I should fear that as much as you. But you cannot 
deny that the present crisis, since it has materially 
weakened your political credit, has also diminished the 
value of our sureties. Since your present position does 
not offer us the same guarantees as hitherto we may 
have to look for them elsewhere. "We demand a more 
effectual pledge for the conclusion of peace on the basis 
of the conditions of the preliminary treaty, and for the 


The Franco-German War 6i 

payment of the indemnity. I think that if we were to 
come to an understanding on this point, we should 
regulate the others very quickly." 

Favre remarked that everything depended on the 
nature and amounts of the guarantees required, and 
asked for further information. 

" We should like," replied Bismarck, " to reserve the 
right of deciding when your Government — which, as I 
hope, is now victorious — has attained such stability that 
we can quit your territory. In this sense the treaty of 
the 26th of February, which fixes the gradual withdrawal 
of our occupation after the payment of each half-milliard, 
and which only allows us a garrison of 50,000 men to 
hold six departments after the payment of the fourth 
instalment, would have to be modified. You have 
nothing to fear from this new resolution ; we have the 
greatest interest in the return of our troops, since it is 
the wish of Germany, and we should be foolish and 
guilty if we did not comply with this desire. As soon 
as you have restored order, we shall vacate your terri- 
tory in the most complete manner ; too great a haste 
might be as dangerous to you as to us. We ask further 
from you, as a necessary condition for the safety of our 
troops, the right to control the approaches to the gates 
of Paris and to patrol the hitherto neutral zone be- 
tween our lines and your walls. It is merely a 
question of exercising a police duty which you cannot 
deny us, and which may prevent annoying irregu- 

M. Favre wished to postpone these subsidiary ques- 
tions to a further interview, and for the present urged 
the necessity of coming to an understanding regarding 

62 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

the peace treaty, which would put an end to the un- 
decided and dangerous situation. 

The Prince approved of this project, and congratulated 
the French negotiators on thus avoiding dangerous com- 

"I cannot," he added, "conceal from you the fact 
that I am the bearer of an ultimatum, and that I am 
ordered to present it to you. Thanks to the frankness 
of your declarations, I regard it as unnecessary, though 
at the same time, as it is my duty, I cannot withdraw 
from communicating it to you. I request you to accept 
it if only to cover your responsibility towards the 
National Assembly, which, if it has to ratify our conven- 
tion, must recognize the unavoidable situation by which 
it came to pass." 

The interview, which had lasted four hours, then came 
to an end, and its purport was at once reported to M. 
Thiers, who signified his approval of the results achieved. 

At noon the following day. Prince Bismarck, accom- 
panied by his suite, returned the visit of the French 
plenipotentiaries. He commenced by protesting against 
the document, which he was about to bring to their 
notice, being regarded in any way as a threat, and 
expressed the hope that an amicable agreement would 
be arrived at; he had, however, to execute a direct 
order of his Government, and would therefore read the 
note aloud. 

" With reference to our interview of yesterday, I have 
the honour to draw your Excellency's attention to the 
fact that the present situation in Prance differs materially 
from that which was taken into consideration at the 
time of the signature of the peace preliminaries. The 


The Franco-German War 63 

Government of the Eepublic does not possess to-day 
the same power of fulfilling its engagements as it did 
at that date. The Paris insurrection has, by altering 
the situation, endangered the future on which we 
believed ourselves able to reckon. Since the French 
Government has been obliged to leave Paris in the 
hands of the insurrection and thus to trespass upon 
the conditions of the peace preliminaries in order to 
seek the means of re-establishing its disputed authority, 
we must fear that similar occurrences might happen 
again even if the Government succeeds in regaining 
possession of the capital. "We have hitherto abstained 
from an attack on Paris, which would put an end to an 
abnormal situation which was not considered in the 
treaty of the 26th of February, but this uncertainty 
cannot be prolonged without prejudice to our interests. 
We have agreed to a concentration of French troops 
sufficient to imperil our position in the event of an 
unexpected turn of affairs, but we can now no longer 
maintaia this passive attitude in the face of circum- 
stances which are at variance with the conditions of 
the peace preliminaries. Unless France is able to give 
us guarantees which will protect German interests 
with greater certainty against any future disturbances 
hindering the peace of France, we must secure them 
for ourselves. 

"We should like to seek these guarantees in the 
conscientious execution of the conventions concluded 
up to the present date, according to which the French 
troops stationed outside Paris would retire to the south 
of the Loire. Unless the French Government would 
be williug to come to an agreement whereby, after 

64 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

the payment of the first half-milliard of the indemnity, 
the German troops would continue to occupy the Paris 
forts situated on the right bank of the Seine, with the 
corresponding portion of the neutral zone up to the walls 
of the city, as well as the gates situate on the right bank. 
In that case the evacuation, provided for by the treaty 
of the 26th of February, would, for the time being, be 
restricted to the departments of the Somme, Seine In- 
ferieure, and Eure, and the evacuation demanded by 
Article B of the peace preliminaries would only follow 
in its full extent when the political situation of France 
is sufficiently established to offer security that the 
French Government Avould be able to fulfil its engage- 
ments to Germany. It would be contrary to the 
interests of Germany to prolong the occupation beyond 
the time which France requires her Government to be 
firmly established, because the expenses of maintaining 
our armies in France far exceed all sums which France 
contributes thereto. The interests of both countries 
do not permit us to allow such a situation to continue 
which leaves them in uncertainty, both as regards the 
future of their material relations and the continuation 
of circumstances which amount neither to war or peace. 
" In order to put an end to this, we shall endeavour 
at our present conference to agree about the chief 
questions to be solved in the definitive peace treaty. If 
we do not succeed in this, and if the French Government 
refuses to give tis the pledges which I have just had the 
honour to indicate to your Excellency, Germany will 
above all reserve the right to take steps against the 
irregular conditions at present prevailing in Paris, and 
to insist on the strict execution of the condition which 

The Franco-German War 65 

directs the French Government to withdraw its troops 
south of the Loire. 

''Accept, etc., 

" V. Bismarck." 

Favre informed the Chancellor that he accepted the 
note only with the explanation which had preceded its 
presentation, and requested that the negotiations might 
commence at once. Prince Bismarck replied in a few 
polite words, and returned to his hotel, accompanied 
en route by the cheers of the crowd assembled in the 

The conference was resumed an hour later at the 
Hotel Zum Schwan, and the question of the securities 
was discussed with some warmth, for Bismarck appeared 
to doubt the desire of the French for a rapid conclusion 
of the peace negotiations. 

" Your actions," he exclaimed, " are of more impor- 
tance than your words, and what we learn about the 
former inspires us with little confidence. You have not 
abandoned the hope, a chimerical one in my eyes, of 
interesting Europe in your affairs, and you believe you will 
be able to achieve an alteration of the conditions of peace 
by an intervention. Therefore you search everywhere 
for hostile feelings which may embarrass us. Even 
quite recently you turned to Eussia. Our ambassador 
at St. Petersburg reported this to me this morning." 

Favre interrupted the Chancellor to inform him that, 
though he had made efforts to awaken the sense of 
justice in Europe, he was incapable of playing a double 
game, and therefore requested that the despatch referred 
to might be communicated to him. 

66 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

The Prince sent for the telegram, in which the 
ambassador reported a conversation with Gortschakoff 
who had received a note from the Minister of the 
Exterior. This expressed a wish that the Czar might 
exercise his influence on his venerable uncle, the 
German Emperor, in order to bring about a speedy- 
peace, and so put an end to the dangerous continuation 
of this mutual lack of confidence. 

In reply to an entreaty to diminish rather than 
increase the burden of the occupation, the Chancellor 
observed — 

" You forget that this occupation, which you complain 
of, presses more hardly on us than on you. Our army 
is the nation itself, and if it is stationed on your 
territory, our country is impoverished. Every family 
is angered by the absence of a member, and this is not 
justified by war. We demand that we alone have to 
decide when the withdrawal of our troops is opportune, 
not in order to leave them an unnecessarily long time 
on your soil, but so that we may not be forced later on 
to lead them there again. Moreover, the Emperor's 
orders are quite definite on this point, and we can make 
no concessions." 

Notwithstanding the determined attitude of the 
Germans in this matter, the French succeeded in 
arranging that the fifteen departments mentioned in 
the peace preliminaries were to be evacuated after the 
payment of the third half-milliard, and this they 
obtained without any consideration of the views of the 
Prussian Cabinet regarding the situation in France. 

The question of guarding the gates of Paris was more 
successfully contested, and Bismarck contented himself 


The Franco-German War 67 

with the right of sending patrols round the neutral zone 
outside Paris. 

The district round Belfort, which was to remain 
French, was then minutely discussed. In Versailles 
Bismarck estimated the radius of the district at seven 
kilometres, but, since this was the minimum, the French 
delegates endeavoured to obtain a more generous con- 
cession. Eelying on strategical geographical arguments, 
as well as on the manifest desire of the population to 
remain French, they demanded an extension of territory 
to the north, south, and west. Bismarck promised to 
investigate these claims with a view to approving of 
them, and suggested at the same time that a portion of 
the French demands might be granted in return for an 
equivalent elsewhere. The French negotiators protested 
against this view. It was not a business question when 
every concession called for a compensation ; moreover, 
they were not empowered to dispose of what the peace 
preliminaries had left or promised to them. 

On reassembling the following day (May 8), Bis- 
marck informed the French delegates that Germany 
consented to the proposed area round Belfort, but 
demanded a strip of about ten kilometres along the 
Luxemburg frontier. The French would thus obtain 
27,000 inhabitants and 6000 hectares on the Upper 
Ehine, whilst losing 7000 inhabitants and 10,000 

The German Cabinet was induced to make this 
proposal for two important reasons : the one, to obtain 
the rich iron ore deposits of the locality in question ; 
the other, to diminish the French frontier towards 
Luxemburg by one-third. The Chancellor also mentioned 

68 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

a third reason, of minor importance from the point of 
view of positive policy, for the territory which Prussia 
desired to possess had been the scene of repeated and 
bloody struggles. The mortal remains of a large 
number of officers and soldiers were there laid to rest, 
and the Emperor attached importance to the possession 
of their graves. 

The French delegates did not consider it necessary 
to refute these arguments, having regard to the paramount 
importance to France of a field of action round Belfort. 
They therefore remarked that it was beyond their powers 
to negotiate so delicate a question, and that the National 
Assembly alone could decide, since it involved their 
sovereignty. A middle course was therefore adopted 
by agreeing to the alternative to be presented to the 
Chamber : either a radius of seven kilometres round 
Belfort without any further rectification of the frontier, 
or the above-mentioned extension in return for ten 
kilometres along the Luxemburg frontier. 

The Chancellor consented, without offering much 
resistance, to the return of 20,000 French prisoners of 
war, who were to be sent without delay to Algiers, 
where they formed a welcome reinforcement against 
the rebellion. 

On the other hand, however, the question of a com- 
mercial treaty was less easy to arrange, for whilst the 
French wished to restore the status quo, Bismarck 
warmly replied' that he would rather begin the war 
over again than expose Germany to a tariff war. It 
was only on recognizing the certainty of a breach that 
the French delegates were constrained to agree that 
both Governments should base their commercial relations 

The Franco-German War 69 

on the system of mutual treatment on the footing of 
the most favoured nations. 

Several minor questions were then decided, but no 
understanding could be arrived at regarding the price 
of that portion of the Eastern Eailway which was 
situated on the annexed territory. The directors of the 
company asked for 400 millions ; Bismarck offered 100. 
At last the question had to be postponed to the follow- 
ing day, when the defensive treaty was to be signed. 

On May 10, 1871, the following were assembled in 
a room at the Hotel Zum Schwan : M. Jules Favre, 
Minister of the Exterior ; M. Pouyer-Quertier, Minister 
of Finance ; and M. Goulard, representing France : 
Prince Bismarck, Counts Arnim and Hatzfeldt, repre- 
senting Germany. At the moment of signing the 
Treaty, which was to be ratified by the German Emperor 
and the National Assembly, M. Favre received a 
telegram announcing the capture of Fort Issy by the 
troops of the Government, and also the President of 
the Council's complete approval of the arrangements 
made with Bismarck. 

Favre lost no time in communicating the good news 
to the German Chancellor, who seemed to be rather 
surprised, for he, as were most of his countrymen, was 
firmly convinced that the French Government would 
not be able to take the fortifications held by the in- 
surgents. In any case, he at once consented to resume 
the negotiation of the railway transfer. After a dis- 
cussion of two hours, it was agreed that the sum of 
325 millions should be allowed to the French railway 
company, and be deducted from the second half-milliard 
of the war indemnity. 

70 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

The Eatification of the Peace Treaty* 
FranJcfort-on-the-3Iain, May 20-22, 1871 

On Sunday, May 20, 1871, MM. Favre and Pouyer- 
Quertier again arrived at Frankfort to complete the 
final formalities of the peace-treaty. 

Their conferences with Bismarck commenced at about 
3 p.m. and did not end until 11 p.m., when the ratifica- 
tions were exchanged, though the signing of the last 
signatures had to be postponed until the following 
Monday. Bismarck at first intended to summon the 
Finance Minister by telegram, but afterwards turned 
to M. Pouyer-Quertier and said, "I have thought it 
over ; we do not .want a middleman ; everything can be 
arranged quite well between us." 

As a matter of fact, he showed real sympathy towards 
M. Pouyer-Quertier. This was due to his straightforward 
manner, as well as to his lucid arguments ; for, like all 
truly practical men, Bismarck valued highly precision 
and simplicity. Thus it happened that the Chancellor 
made several very valuable concessions, the chief of 
them being the acceptance of French bank-notes for 
100 million francs in payment of the first instalment 
of the indemnity, although French notes were expressly 
excluded by the treaty just ratified. 

Whilst the documents were being prepared, the 
political and military situation formed the subject of 
conversation. "'The King," said Bismarck, "is rather 
disquieted, since he learns that you wish to have 
another 10,000 prisoners returned, because he thinks 
he sees in this a proof that a solution of your difficulties 
* Jules Favre, " Simple R^cit," etc. 

The Franco-German War 71 

is still far removed, and he cannot bear the thought of 
a further delay. Our troops do not wish to remain in 
France any longer. We promise you to withdraw our 
forces to Germany to a great extent, and by this we 
shall go far beyond the provision of the treaty. But 
we demand from you that you should act promptly." 

"That is so much our intention," replied Favre, 
" that the breach will be commenced to-day, with the 
intention of proceeding to the assault not later than 

The Prince congratulated M. Favre on this good 
news, and then mentioned the summons which the 
German Commander-in-Chief was to address to the 
insurgents regarding the disarmament of the Paris 
walls in accordance with the armistice. Favre, in 
reply, begged that the summons might not be sent, 
because a refusal would oblige the Germans to attack 

The Chancellor recognized that it would be better to 
leave the French Government at liberty to act. " In 
the mean time," he added, '* we cannot pledge ourselves 
to anything. You admit that we have the right to 
employ force a thousand times. You are not fighting 
a party, but a band of robbers who have broken the 
laws on which the whole of civilization rests. Can we 
look on with folded arms whilst public buildings as 
well as private property are destroyed — while the arch- 
bishop perhaps is murdered ? Our attitude of reserve 
is no longer understood, and we can only promise to 
maintain it conditionally for a short time longer." 

Favre then showed Prince Bismarck a telegram he 
had just received from M. Thiers, describing the efforts 

72 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

that were being made for the suppression of the in- 
surrection. Favre explained the position of his Govern- 
ment with all the energy of which he was capable, 
and succeeded in gaining permission for the return of 
the prisoners of war. 

At their next meeting, about 9 p.m., Bismarck ex- 
pressed the hope that the two nations might resume 
their former relations. M. Favre replied that every 
endeavour would be made to avoid friction by entrust- 
ing the direction of affairs to enlightened and con- 
ciliatory men. For the time being it would be going 
too far to hope for more than that. 

"That is also my view," replied the Chancellor; 
"but I cannot admit that all hope of an earnest 
reconciliation is destroyed because the fortune of war 
has been favourable to us in a war provoked by you. 
You know better than any one the imperative con- 
siderations we have complied with ; we should have 
striven in vain against the will of the German nation — 
nay, more, we should have committed an act of treason 
against it had we not been on our guard against fresh 
attacks by France. We do not now desire them, and 
we have no need to fear them, for we are armed against 
all eventualities. Nevertheless, I for my part still 
believe that much may be expected from time. You 
will, perhaps, be astonished at what I want to say. 
France will gain more by a sincerely peaceful attitude 
than by the systematic fomenting of the hatred en- 
gendered by this war. I will not dilate further on so 
delicate a topic, but will only repeat to you that I am 
no enemy to your country, and prove it by proposing 
a diplomat, whose thoroughly benevolent sentiments 

The Franco-German War 73 

you are acquainted with and who can only be welcome 
to you, as our ambassador to your Government." 

Favre thanked the Chancellor, and alsa mentioned 
the name of the ambassador M. Thiers proposed to send 
to Berlin. In reply to an observation about the 
difficulties which would beset this post, the Chancellor 
remarked — 

"You are greatly mistaken; he will be the most 
fortunate of all your ambassadors. We shall wrap him 
in cotton-wool, and treat him with so much kind 
courtesy that his chief desire will be to become indis- 
pensable to us. You have, as I see, a false im- 
pression of public opinion in Germany; it is all for 
peace. Of course I do not speak of certain soldiers, 
nor of the exaltes and flatterers of the nation, who call 
themselves Gallophobes, in order to draw attention to 
themselves and exploit the credulity of fools. Those 
who direct and govern the State are more reasonable ; 
they know the vicissitudes of fortune, and if they ever 
doubted them, our very victories, which exceeded all 
expectations, would have enlightened them. They 
have no intention whatever of risking our brilliant 
successes in the game of new adventures. Your 
ambassador will discover this in a few weeks, and a 
longer intercourse with us will only confirm him in 
this conviction." 

M. Favre suggested that the best means for re- 
establishing the normal relations, from which the 
Chancellor expected so much, would be the curtailment 
of the burdensome occupation. 

"We will do that, too," said the Chancellor, "and 
we shall come to an understanding the more easily 

74 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

since our interests are identical. If you could listen 
to the conversations in our regiments, you would hear 
only one wish expressed : to return home. This wish 
is also shared by every German family, and the Press 
repeats it in almost threatening tones. We were, 
nevertheless, obliged to resist it as long as the Paris 
insurrection forced us to insist on new pledges. It is 
now open to you to make these superfluous. Why will 
you not make use of the provisions of the preliminary 
treaty ? After the payment of the first two milliards 
you can propose a financial combination. If it is a 
substantial one, we will willingly accept it, and in that 
case the total evacuation might take place much 

Pavre took his leave at midnight, promising to report 
the conversation fully to his Government, and to return 
the following morning to discuss some disputed matters. 

The conference on the 22nd of May was of much 
the same nature as that of the preceding day. On 
taking leave of M. Pavre, Prince Bismarck congratulated 
him on the conclusion of the peace, and on his personal 
share in bringing it about. 



BisMAECK IN Biarritz 

Bismarck's first visit to Biarritz, in the summer of 
1862, took place under rather peculiar circumstances. 
Though stiU only Prussian ambassador at the Tuileries, 
he was a.lready marked out as the future director of 
Prussian policy. He was thus, as it were, still in a 
stage of transition, which, under the critical circum- 
stances at the time, involved an exceptional strain even 
for the nerves of the strongest of men. Small wonder, 
then, that he felt the necessity of shaking the dust 
of Paris off his feet, and seeking a breath of fresh air 
in the sunny South. 

Quitting Paris on July 25, Bismarck made a tour 
through the Medoc " in order to drink from the wine- 
press in the original language," and eventually reached 
San Sebastian via Bayonne on July 29, after a brief 
visit to Biarritz. A week later he took up his quarters 
at the Hotel de I'Europe in Biarritz, and described 
his room as having " a charming view of the blue sea, 
which flings its white foam against the lighthouse 
between marvellous rocks." 

76 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

In a letter to his sister, he describes the routine of 
his life. 

"My dear Heart, 

" I have remained at Biarritz, the threshold, 
as it were, of the Pyrenees, which I shall perhaps 
explore. The sea-bathing, above all, suited me so 
excellently that I delayed my departure from one 
day to another, although I felt somewhat lonely. 
Since the arrival of the Orloffs, I live with them as 
if we were alone here. . . . We bathe in the morning ; 
then go down to the rocks, lunch in a distant ravine 
behind the lighthouse, where I am at present writing 
these lines, seated on the grass next to a blue and 
yellow robe, and looking out on to green waves and 
white foam between two heather-brown fields. Large 
white seagulls with black wings hover and cry over- 
head, and the ever-present tamarind affords us sufficient 
shade against the burning sun of '.fine weather,' i.e. 
25° Eeaumur in the shade, though not here, where the 
sea-breeze cools the air. A few pears, peaches, and dogs 
lie about us. Orloff (you know him — the ambassador 
in Brussels, with a black bandage over his eye) sits 
smoking and reading ; his wife, like myself, is writing. 
She would please you also ; . . . very original, clever, 
and merry, . . . but civilized by her French-German 
education ; her parents (Trubetzkoi) have lived in 
Tontainebleau for twenty years. At three we bathe a 
second time, dine at five, go for another walk, and Ue 
on the heather in the sea-breeze until bed-time. A 
comfortable, still life, in which I forget Paris and 
Berlin (but not Eeinfeld), and of which I shall carry 

Further Conversations and Interviews 77 

away very dear reminiscences. Why ? Daily I ask 
myself that question, and put off the answer until 
the morrow, whilst I justly rely on the fact that I 
have not been so healthy for six years as I am here 
now. I walk and climb all day like a goat, lie in 
wet grass without fear of a chill, and each day I 
become a year younger, so that if I remain here long 
I shall become student-like or childish. With the 
exception of my neighbour, I only know an old 

Countess B and her grandchild, a pretty girl, fond 

of dancing, with whom I had to waltz a few times 
before the Orloffs came. Most of the remaining society 
are Spaniards of good family and no education ; they 
speak no European language, and I know of nothing 
to do with them. . . . 

" I shall not go to Berlin and Pomerania before the 
end of my leave, which expires about the 14th. Before 
that date I am afraid of being anchored in Berlin at the 
'sunny' hotel. My fate must then be decided; how 
is a matter of indifference to me. Farewell, dear heart. 
The sun shines on my paper, and, since I write on my 
right knee, this letter is very readable; it is true 
Mendelssohn's letters lie underneath. Hearty greetings 
to Oscar. 

" Your most affectionate brother, 

''V. B." 

In October, 1864, Bismarck again visited Biarritz. 
Napoleon and the Empress were Hving at the Villa 
Eugenie, hence all manner of reports and rumours 
about intended negotiations and intrigues arose on 
every side. But Bismarck did not touch Paris on his 

yS Conversations with Prince Bismarck 


way from Baden-Baden, and thus public opinion was 
somewhat quieted. 

This second stay was no less enjoyable than the 
first, and Bismarck roundly declared, in a letter to 
his wife, that "if we were free, I would propose to 
you to come here with child and kit and remain the 
whole winter, as many Englishmen do, on account of 
the cheapness of living here in winter." 

A Danish agent, Julius Hansen,* was granted an 
interview with Bismarck on the recommendation of 
Vicomte de la Gueronniere. Hansen's object was to 
learn from Bismarck whether the present situation 
regarding Schleswig-Holstein was considered permanent, 
and whether Germany could not be persuaded to re- 
turn the Danish portion of Schleswig, thereby earning 
the gratitude of the Danes and the good-will of the 

Bismarck replied, "Long before the war I had a 
presentiment that the hostilities between the Univer- 
sities of Copenhagen and Kiel would lead to a war 
between the two nations. For my part, I have never 
looked upon the intrigues of the Kiel professors with 
a favourable eye, but the death of Frederick VII. and 
the state of agitation in Germany forced us to make 
war. I, personally, would have been contented with 
the line of Flensburg-Tondern, and, at the Conference 
of London, Prussia was inclined to concede Denmark 
the line Gjelting'-Bredstedt. The military line of the 
Schlei would have sufficed as a frontier, and 70,000 
Germans, certainly, would have been under the Danish 

* Hansen's report of the interview has been stigmatized as in- 
correct in some particulars. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 79 

sovereignty. But the attitude of Denmark at the 
Conference made such a partition difficult, and the 
resumption of hostilities put every chance of such 
a combination out of the question. To-day it is im- 
possible to alter the peace stipulations, having regard 
to the sentiments of the German nation and King 
William. The King of Prussia regards the hereditary 
titles of the Duke of Augustenburg as well founded, and 
consequently declares that if the Duke possesses a right 
to a single portion of that territory, he has an equal 
right to the whole of Schleswig. Otherwise, the King, 
according to his view, would himself have no right to 
seize the possessions of King Christian IX. The King 
of Prussia and all his family are in favour of the Duke 
of Augustenburg. So far as I am concerned, I doubt the 
rights of this pretender, and I believe that the matter 
will drag on at least for some time. If I had the 
choice between the alternatives of either incorporat- 
ing in Prussia the duchies as far as Plensburg, or of 
giving the Duke of Augustenburg the whole of Schles- 
wig and Holstein, I should without delay accept the 
first. I believe that neither France nor Eussia would 
oppose an arrangement which left the Duchies to 
Prussia, and Austria would perhaps not commence a 
war on that account. But there is a more serious 
obstacle in the will of King William. He thinks that 
another has rights in the Duchies, and I cannot well 
be a greater royalist than the King. Nevertheless, I 
recognize that there are more than 100,000 Danes in 
Schleswig, who will have great influence in the future, 
and that it will be difficult to maintain good relations 
between Germany and Denmark so long as these Danes 

8o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

are separated from their countrymen. I should not 
regard it as a great misfortune if North Schleswig were 
to be returned to Denmark at a given opportunity." 

It was on Bismarck's return to Germany through 
Paris that the following flattering judgment was passed 
on him : — 

"Ze premier ministre de Prusse appartient a Vecole 
des hommes d'Mat, qui ramenent tout au pouvoir et au 
commandement. C'est un franc absolutiste. Mais toutes 
les personnes qui out vu de pres cet Jiomme d'Etat, sont 
frappees de la simpliciie de sa mise et de ses manieres 
et de la rondeur avec laquelle it s'exprime sur les 

The political situation at the time of Bismarck's 
third visit to Biarritz was by no means serene. Public 
opinion in France regarded the Convention of Gastein, 
which entrusted the administration of Schleswig to 
Prussia and that of Holstein to Austria, as a decided 
victory of the Prussian policy. The French minister, 
Drouyn de Lhuys, censured the Convention in a circular 
note, whilst Napoleon, in a long conversation with the 
German ambassador, gave expression to the painful 
impression it had made on him. 

The aggressive language employed in the circular 
note rendered the acceptance by the German ambas- 
sador of an invitation to the Villa Eugenie at least 
questionable in the eyes of King William. Bismarck 
therefore sought permission to repair to Biarritz himself 
and ascertain the real meaning of the apparent contra- 
diction. On the receipt of a report from Von der Goltz 
that Napoleon had repeatedly expressed his regret 
at the terms of the circular note, the King at last 

Further Conversations and Interviews 8i 

consented to Bismarck's departure — though with the 
reservation that no engagements should be entered 
into with France, as the effect of the Convention on 
the Schleswig-Holstein affair had still to be seen. 

Bismarck's most important interview with Napoleon 
III. at Biarritz was the result of an invitation to 
lunch on the 8th of October, after which a long con- 
versation took place on the terrace of the Villa Eugenie. 

It was obvious that the Emperor was most anxious 
to undo the effect of the circular note, which he de- 
clared had been drafted and despatched in great haste. 
He began by asking Bismarck whether Prussia had not 
given Austria a guarantee regarding Venetia, hinting 
at a German coalition against France. Bismarck re- 
plied in the negative, and assured the Emperor that he 
might rely the more on his sincerity since such 
agreements, once made, could not remain secret for 
long, and that he (Bismarck) had no desire that his 
honesty of purpose should be doubted. Moreover, Bis- 
marck considered it impossible that, even in the future, 
any convention could be arranged by which Prussia 
would help Austria to make war as she pleased, in 
which Prussia would be forced to join without reaping 
any advantages. 

The Emperor for his part asserted that he had no 
intention of disturbing the peace of Europe, and protested 
particularly against harbouring any designs on Belgium. 
Using almost the very words Bismarck had employed 
in his interview with Drouyn de Lhuys a few days 
before. Napoleon remarked that events must be allowed 
to ripen and must not be forced, and concluded by 
asking how Prussia proposed to settle the Holstein 


82 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

question with Austria. Bismarck candidly admitted 
that he hoped Prussia would obtain and hold Holstein 
by paying a money indemnity. He explained that the 
acquisition of the Elbe Duchies by no means signified 
an increase in the power of Prussia, for it would necessi- 
tate the development of the navy and the defences against 
the North, a burden which was not counterbalanced by 
the addition of a million new subjects. The acquisition 
of the Duchies was only an arrhes (earnest money) for 
the fulfilment of the task allotted by history to the 
Prussian State, and towards the further pursuit of which 
friendly relations with Prance were necessary. It 
seemed to him that it was in the interest of French 
policy to encourage the ambition of Prussia in the ful- 
filment of national tasks, since an ambitious Prussia 
would always place a high value on the friendship of 
France, whereas if she was discouraged she would seek 
protection in defensive alliances against France. 

Napoleon was also anxious to know what attitude 
Prussia would adopt with regard to the Danube Prin- 
cipalities, for he seemed inclined to think that they 
might serve as compensation to Austria for the loss of 
Venetia. Bismarck replied that Prussia's direct 
interests did not go beyond the secure position of 
German commerce, and that Prussia's co-operation in 
the future reorganization of those countries was only 
conditional because of the necessity of avoiding com- 
plications with Eussia on a question of comparatively 
little importance to Prussia. 

The conversation then turned on the importance to 
Europe of sealing up the sources of infectious diseases 
which, like the cholera of that date, originated in the 

Further Conversations and Interviews 83 

pilgrimages to Mecca, and from thence spread to the 
West. The Emperor thought that dangers of this 
nature might be minimized by the united action of the 
Powers, and expressed a desire for the co-operation of 
Prussia. Although Bismarck did not disguise the 
danger that the fanaticism of the Mohammedans might 
be aroused by interference with the pilgrimages, he con- 
sidered himself free to express his conviction that 
Prussia would readily take part in every work of civi- 
lization in that direction, so far as she was able to 
influence those distant regions. 

The general impression left on Bismarck by his 
observations was that the sentiments of the French 
Court were extremely favourable to Prussia. 

Prosper Merimee relates the following diverting 
anecdote, which aptly characterizes the dominant tone 
of the Villa Eugenie. 

One of the Empress's ladies professed the greatest 
admiration for Bismarck, whereupon her companions 
regaled her with many a prettily invented tale of the 
statesman's audacity. Merimee, hearing of this, con- 
ceived the idea of painting a portrait of Bismarck, and 
then cutting out the head. This done, the Emperor, the 

Empress, and Merimee proceeded to Madame N 's 

bedroom at nightfall. A roUed-up counterpane simu- 
lated the body ; the painted face was put in position, 
and the Empress placed a knotted handkerchief on its 
forehead to represent a nightcap, and in the semi-dark- 
ness of the room the illusion was complete. The con- 
spirators kept Madame N back after their Majesties 

had quitted the salon, until they had taken up their 
posts of observation. Every one then pretended to go 

84 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

to bed, and Madame N retired to her room. She 

remained there only an instant, however ; rushing out 
again, she knocked at Madame de Lourmel's door with 
the piteous complaint, "II y a un homme dans mon 
lit ! " Unfortunately, Madame de Lourmel could not 
remain serious, and the audible laughter of the Empress 
at the end of the corridor completely spoilt the joke. 
But it was only later that Merimee learnt the full extent 
of his joke. One of the Imperial servants had pre- 
viously entered Madame N 's room, but retired 

hastily with stammering excuses on seeing the recum- 
bent form. He then told his fellow-servants that there 
was a man in the bed. Some expressed the opinion 

that it was Madame IST 's husband, who had wanted i 

to see his wife ; but this suggestion was rejected as ! 
quite improbable. Some one, however, who had seen 
Merimee at work on the Bismarck head, prevented the 
report from spreading. 

A fortnight after the Imperial family had quitted ) 
Biarritz, Bismarck, accompanied by his wife and 
daughter, set out for Paris, where he had another 
audience with Napoleon. 

The Paris press commented on the Prussian statesman 
as follows — 

"On lui a trouve une physionomie fixe et douce 
faisant contraste avec le sans fapon, j'allais dire la bru- 
talite de sa politique. On a remarque la beaute et les 
cheveux blonds de Mademoiselle de Bismarck. Bref, 
le dehors du ministre et de son entourage ont efface un 
peu de I'impression produite de sa politique." 

Further Conversations and Interviews 85 


Berlin, Septemher 22, 1867 

" I have had a four hours' palaver with The Man, 
but, as I expected, shall be able to make very little of 
it public, for he commenced our talk by saying, 'I 
have experience of your discretion ; I shall therefore 
have no concealment from you, but I reckon confidently 
upon your using all the personal part of what I may 
tell you with all necessary reserve; and you will 
understand that the more unreservedly I speak to you, 
the greater proof I give you of my conviction that you 
will not compromise me with the people who are 
looking out for every word I say, by letting them know 
what I really think.' Now, as the personal or anecdo- 
tical part of his conversation is the most interesting 
and startling of all, being put 'upon honour' with 
regard to it necessarily lessens the importance of the 
published results of an interview such as I have this 
evening enjoyed ; but I will do my best to tell you in 
this private letter all that is comprised in his prohibi- 
tion. What I write in the public letter you may print 
without hesitation. 

" He believes in peace, and for many reasons — but I 
had better, as nearly as possible, reproduce his own 
words : ' I do not believe for a moment that France 
will fight us alone, for, reckoning that every Prussian is 
at least as good as every Frenchman, we are numeri- 
cally stronger than she is. The attack must come from 

* Daily Telegraph, August 4, 1898. 

86 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

her ] we shall never begin a war, if war there ever be, 
for we have nothing to gain. Suppose France entirely 
conquered, and a Prussian garrison in Paris ; what are 
we to do with our victory ? We could not even decently 
take Alsace, for the Alsatians are become Frenchmen, 
and wish to remain so. Belgium we do not want; 
besides, England guarantees her integrity. Therefore, 
should this possibility — which is always being dinned 
into my ears as a probability — ever come to pass, 
France will undoubtedly attack us, in which case, if she 
stand alone, she is lost, for our system is such that the 
further she may advance (supposing she be at first 
victorious) into our country, the more armies will 
spring up against her, like Cadmus' teeth. You will ] 
say, " Old men, ob la fin," but a Prussian is not so senile 
at forty-five as some people think. And every German 
is with us now, despite creeds and bias ; we have not 
sought, we have waited — they run after us, like the 
roast sucking-pig in the Chinaman's dream, crying, 
" Come, eat me ! " You remember, a hundred years ago, 
at the battle of — [I did not catch the name. — K.] — 
when a Prussian dragoon was fighting a French cuiras- 
sier hand to hand, a German horseman, one of France's 
mercenaries, rode up to strike in on the part of his 
comrade. The Prussian called out to him, "Hold, 
brother ! let me finish this Frenchman ; he belongs to 
me ! " and the German reined up, saluted, and rode off 
in another direction. That was a century ago. Since 
then what have not the Germans learned to comprehend 
of the brotherhood that naturally binds them together 
against the Frenchman or anybody else or all the world 
besides ! If the French fight us alone they are lost ; 

Further Conversations and Interviews 87 

therefore, as they know this, they seek for allies. Will 
they find them ? I will tell you why I think not. 

"'France, the victor, would be a danger to every- 
body — Prussia to nobody. That is our strong point. 
England wished to see a Power in Europe strong enough 
to counterbalance France. That is the reason she 
supported and sympathized with Austria as long as 
Austria seemed to be strong ; that is the reason why I 
told the King, when he wished to carry out the " execu- 
tion" in Denmark alone, "We must have Austria with 
us, or England will join her against us " — and that is 
the reason why England is now turning towards us — 
because she sees in us the Continental contrepoids 
to France, which you English, in spite of your loudly 
protested alliance with Napoleon, are too sensible not to 
understand the necessity of. Your alliance has already 
cost you dearly enough in loss of Continental influence, 
and I should not wonder if the proud English people 
were to get tired some day of playing a bad second 
fiddle to the old foe they have so often conquered. 
You will never take up arms against us in the cause of 

" * I have no little fear of Austria. Austria is like a 
house built of bad bricks, which, however, are kept 
together by an excellent mortar — how do you call 
it? cement — that cement is her German population. 
Whatever good has been done in her barbarous pro- 
vinces, has been done by the Germanizing of her 
institutions. Everywhere in Austria German is spoken ; 
the inhabitants of the different Slav, Magyar, and Latin 
provinces must use German to understand one another. 
An alliance, therefore, with France, having for its 

88 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

purpose the arrest of German unity in its majestic pro- 
gress, and the devastation of German territory, would 
be fatal to Austria, whichever way the tide of victory 
might set. She would surely be ruined through such 
an alliance, and she knows it. I am not the least 
apprehensive of an Austro-French Alliance, I give you 
my word of honour. 

" ' Eussia will never join France against us, of that be 
assured — it is impossible.' (Bismarck said this with 
great emphasis, leaning on both his arms half across the 
table towards me, and looking into my eyes with the 
greatest earnestness.) ' It is true that there has been 
some talk of an understanding upon the Oriental 
question — of a common plan of action in the East. 
Gortschakoff is a funny fellow — he has been taken in 
six or seven times by French humbug and protestations 
of an entente cordiale which always lasts from three 
to five weeks ; then he invariably finds out that he is 
the victim of French cunning and ignorance mixed, and 
begins to curse and swear by all the devils and saints 
in the Eussian calendar quon ne le prendraplus. And 
then he drops into the next trap with inimitable 
naivete. Poor Gortschakoff ! he gained his prestige in 
the Polish business, and thinks the only way to keep it 
up is to lend himself to the Oriental proclivities of 
Eussia. Popularity is his one ambition. Eussia is in a 
horrid state, and a big war is out of the question for 
her till she has set her house in order. If I were the 
Emperor's prime minister — as he very much wished 
me to be six years ago — I should begin by cutting the 
army down to exactly half its present numbers, and 
knocking the privileges of the Tchinovnik on the head. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 89 

That foul and useless Tchin causes half Eussia's mis- 
fortunes. Just now public feeling in Eussia is as bad 
as can be against France ; but, " whatever happens," 
make your mind up that we are quite safe from 

"'I do not think I need tell you why a French- 
Italian offensive alliance against us is out of the 
question — cela saute aux yeux. But I will tell you 
something that I am told by our agents at both courts, 
who are not often mistaken, and that is, that Napoleon 
is going to add another to the list of horrible mistakes 
he has made within the last iive years. He is going to 
let the Italian troops occupy the Pontifical States, with 
the mere exception of Eome itself — by which he will 
bring down the whole of the Catholic, Legitimist, and 
Orleanist parties upon him, and make his position 
infinitely worse than it is — and it is bad enough, God 
knows ! But to return to our peace or war prospects. 
There remains to France, therefore, in Europe (putting 
Denmark and the other Scandinavians out of the 
question — they are not worth counting) only Spain as 
an ally.' Here Bismarck looked at me comically, and 
we both laughed. 

" ' What do I think might bring about war ? Of 
course, an excuse would not be wanting if the French 
really needed one, but I think the greatest danger of 
all proceeds from Napoleon's vacillating state of mind. 
He is become old, but he is also become young — that is 
to say, he indulges in vagaries, gives way to impulses, 
and allows his fair wife to exercise a good deal too 
much influence over him. The Mexico business was 
her doing, as I suppose you know. He is not the man 

90 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

he used to be, and Europe will never be safe whilst his 
present state of intellect continues. Another source 
of danger is the intense ignorance and mendacity of the 
men who represent France everywhere. Look round 
Europe for one capable or honest French agent ! Yours, 
Latour, is the only man of integrity amongst them all 
— the only gentleman. All the others are knaves, or 
so crassly ignorant and prejudiced that an intelligent 
schoolboy is worth all of them put together. Gramont, 
for instance, is half a fool and a notorious liar — I beg your 
pardon, I should have said a lover of hoaxes. Bene- 
detti is more clever than the run of French statesmen, 
though quite as dishonest ; but why is he more clever ? 
Because he is an Italian. He is also more amiable — 
also because he is an Italian. These fellows will neither 
learn anything, nor will they keep quiet. The conse- 
quence is, that Napoleon is worse informed upon 
European affairs than any other Sovereign. They made 
him go to Salzburg. You were quite right about that 
meeting ; it was an utter fiasco ; but I knew it would 
be from the first, and my people warned Napoleon of 
it, and advised him not to go. I was much amused 
afterwards to hear how he had been manoeuvring for 
three days, and the Austrians counter-manoeuvring all 
the time. He went to shear, and came away shorn. 
Why did he go to look for wool — he had the Golden 
Fleece already ? But these shallow, trum^pery French 
clerks — I cannot dall them ministers or ambassadors — 
may bring their master and their countrymen into 

" ' When I was in Paris with the King, I told Eouher, 
before his colleagues and Gortschakoff, who happened to 


Further Conversations and Interviews 91 

be present, " Unless you want war with us, don't put 
yourself to the trouble of looking out for another 
Luxemburg — this is the last ; I am colle au mur, and 
I will not give way an inch to any new demand. I 
owe my compatriots a war. I have cheated them out 
of one, in which they had a good chance of success, and 
it required all my popularity to enable me to do so. 
If you give me any opportunity, I shall certainly pay 
my debt." Gortschakoff tried to turn the conversation, 
as everybody looked dreadfully uncomfortable at my 
" boutade." But Moustier had something on his stomach, 
and managed to bring it up with many grimaces. They 
thought of urging that Luxemburg should leave the 
ZoUverein — should I offer any objection to that? I 
broke out, " Don't talk to me of Luxemburg. I won't 
hear of Luxemburg. The Duke of Luxemburg has got 
to stay in the ZoUverein till 1873, and then he can 
leave if he likes ; but till then he shall not go out of 
it, and if you urge him to make a question of it, I shall 
say to the King, ' Flamberge au vent, sire ! ' and I 
don't think his Majesty will say me nay." They did 
not mention Luxemburg any more to me the whole 
time I was in Paris.' Here Bismarck indulged in 
another cigar, beered, and went on. 

" ' You would like to know something about our plans, 
our aggregation projects, and our ambitions, would you 
not ? I will tell you exactly what they are, and only 
two or three besides the King and myself know. First 
of all, there is Austria. Now, the German provinces 
of Austria, except the Tyrol and Salzkammergut, both 
of which are blindly Catholic and Hapsburg, may experi- 
ence a strong gravitation towards us. I do not deny it 

92 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

for a moment ; but, I assure you, were I offered Upper 
and Lower Austria to-morrow I should refuse them. 
They are too far off; there are Bohemia, Austrian Silesia, 
Moravia, with three-fifths Slav populations, between us. 
If those provinces of German Austria were where 
Bohemia, etc., are, if Prague and Vienna could change 
places, I do not say no. Then we might think of it ; as 
it is we do not. I assure you it is our earnest desire 
to see Austria strengthen herself round her German 
nucleus and stand firmly alone. Of course, we do not 
suffer any new oppression of Hungary any more than 
we would of the Austro-Germans, but we shall gladly 
enter into a fast and sincere alliance with a constitutional 
King of Hungary, who, as Emperor of Austria, allows 
the German element full play in his other provinces. 
There is Bohemia, Silesia, etc., again. They would 
prove a second Poland to us. We should have to learn 
how to manage the Czechs, whereas Austria has some 
experience in that task, although I admit it has been 
very bad experience. We don't want Bohemia, Silesia, 
Moravia, or any other part of Austria ; let her get strong 
and be our ally — voila tout. 

"'All the nonsense you have heard about part of 
Russian Poland, Courland, or the Baltic Provinces is 
as stupid as it is untrue. It is true there is some 
dissatisfaction amongst those Northerns, half German, 
half Scandinavian, on account of the Eussian language 
being imposed upon them, but we shall not interfere. 
What should we do with provinces we could not de- 
fend? Besides, depend upon it, we shall not meddle 
with Russian territory or affairs any more than they 
will with ours. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 93 

" ' Beust is trop fin. Some time ago, about the 
vexed question of Bavaria and Wiirtemberg, I let him 
know that, although we were prepared to maintain 
openly the Treaty of Nikolsburg, we would give our 
best attention to any proposals he might like to make, 
and, if we could not accept them, would faithfully keep 
his secret. He wanted to be too clever, and answered 
to my confidential communication that he thought the 
propositions ought to come from our side — that it was 
our turn to hold out a hand. I did not agree with 
him, and so the matter dropped. But we have since 
been very careful about South Germany, and have 
remained quite passive. We can stop as we are for 
ten years or more, only insisting upon the terms of the 
Treaty, but the Southerners -will not let us, and if they 
come to offer us an accession of power, we shall certainly 
not kick them downstairs. But we wish it clearly 
understood that if Austria must disintegrate, we don't 
want any of the pieces. There is nothing in our attitude 
to annoy or alarm France. I think, barring the acci- 
dents at which I have hinted, there is nothing to pre- 
vent the maintenance of peace for ten or fifteen years, 
by which time the French will have got accustomed to 
German unity, and will consequently have ceased to 
care about it. 

"'I told our generals this spring, when they en- 
deavoured to prove to me, by all sorts of arguments, 
that we must beat the French if we went to war then, 
" If you can make it as clear to me as that God be " — 
[verbatim. — K.] — " that we can crush France, and occupy 
Paris, I will still do all I can to prevent war ; for you 
must remember, gentlemen, a war between such near 

94 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

neighbours and old enemies as France and Prussia, 
however it may turn out, is only the first of at least 
six ; and supposing we gained all six, what should we 
have succeeded in doing? Why, in ruining France, 
certainly, and most likely ourselves into the bargain. 
Do you think a poor, bankrupt, starving, ragged neigh- 
bour is as desirable as a wealthy, solvent, fat, well- 
clothed one? France buys largely of us, and sells us 
a great many things we want. Is it in our interest to 
ruin her completely ? " I strove for peace then, and I 
will do so as long as may be ; only, remember, German 
susceptibilities must be respected, or I cannot answer 
for the people — not even for the King ! The French, I 
am quite aware, are buying horses and provisions. That 
does not frighten me. Their harvest is a bad one, and 
they are quite right to take precautions against distress. 
They cannot want provisions for a war with us, for in 
such a war they must be the aggressors ; and if they 
invade Germany they will find food and provender 
enough for ten French armies. Their preparations do 
not disquiet me in the least. We are always ready. 

" * How are we getting on with our new acquisitions ? 
Very well, on the whole. I have removed Hardenberg, 
who did not suit Hanover at all, and sent them Stolberg, 
a gentleman, and a thoroughly honest man. We have 
allowed them to open their Provincial Diet, so that they 
may administer their internal affairs if they can — and 
we have a certain majority of the educated and com- 
mercial deputies. Against us is the Eitterschaft, or 
Junkers, " une petite gentilhommerie pauvre et stupide," 
who lived on the old Court and the King. Stolberg 
asked me whether he should check this party, or at 


Further Conversations and Interviews 95 

least suppress pubKcity to its sayings and doings. I 
told him, " By no means. If they were on ^nr side, I 
should decidedly advise you to do so ; as they are 
against us, let them say and do what they like — they 
will do us incalculable service by opposing and vilifying 
us." Hanover is all right, and so will Frankfort be 
soon. The fact is that Frankfort has been hardly used 
— von der Heydt, our Finance Minister, hates them a 
good deal, and he is very mean in all matters of money. 
He is constantly straining to add to the Privy Purse, 
and somebody must pay for it. But I have passed my 
word to the Frankforters that this grievance shall be 
redressed, and that they shall be put on the same foot- 
ing as the most favoured Prussian town — perhaps even 
better, as they are new to us. I induced the King to 
tell them the same thing when he was there the other 
day, and answer their deputation at Berlin since in the 
same spirit. Why, when there was the question of 
that heavy fine to be inflicted upon them, the King 
insisted upon its being set at 50,000,000 thalers ; I 
quietly cut it down to 25,000,000fl., and said to myself, 
" Bismarck, you will never see that money." We shall 
take over all the State debts, and treat them fairly. 
No wonder their house and land property is depreciated 
in value, if they go on howling all over Europe that 
nobody must trust them any more. What they have 
lost is the right of preaching in their State Senate and 
Diet, if that be a loss ; in most other respects they have 
gained. About the loan — that is another mess of von 
der Heydt. Prussia is inheritrix {Bechtsnachfolger) of 
Frankfort's obligations, and will redeem them. 

" ' As for our Parliament, it is pretty well in hand. 

96 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

We don't trouble the good people much with politics, 
and on internal questions, modified laws, etc., we have a 
majority. Of course some of them talk Liberal nonsense 
— they would give anything not to be obliged to do so ; 
but they began on that platform with their constituents, 
and are obliged to continue, much against their will. 
No difficulties await us from that quarter. 

" ' The Danes are giving us a good deal of unnecessary 
trouble. I would meet them half way if it were not 
that our people are so mixed in with them in the 
districts they want ceded. I know what would happen 
to our people, who have compromised themselves with 
us during the last year, if we abandoned them. It is 
not the Danish Government, but the small officials and 
the populace who would avenge themselves, and then 
we should have another cry of distress rousing Germany 
and stirring up the whole ugly question again, besides 
giving a chance to France, which I don't mean to do if 
I can help it. There are ten, twenty, in some places 
as much as thirty per cent, of Germans in these parts 
all the fuss is being made about. I cannot and dare 
not abandon them. 

" ' One word more about Eussia. Eussia is like a 
strong and healthy man who is attacked by an illness. 
If he will only take advice and stop at home for two 
or three days he will get well immediately, and be as 
strong as ever; but if he will insist upon going out, 
walking about, and transacting business abroad as if 
he were well, then his malady will lay firm hold upon 
him, and perhaps he will die. Two or three days in 
the life of a man mean ten, twenty, or thirty years in 
the life of a nation. Eussia must " stop at home." She 

Further Conversations and Interviews 97 

has got a great future, her highest nobles are intelligent 
and honourable, her peasants are the best fellows in 
the world ; it is in the middle that she is rotten — the 
official nobility, or Tchin, is a virulent ulcer, eating 
away her bowels.' " 

Bismarck and the French Army Bill of 1872 
Berlin, April 6, 1872 

(Narrated by Mr. W. Beatty-Kingston) 

In discussing the stumblingblocks in the way of 
general disarmament,* Mr. Beatty-Kingston referred 
to his first interview with Bismarck in 1867, when 
the Prussian statesman repudiated the idea of terri- 
torial aggrandisement at the expense of France. On 
that occasion he had declared that in the event of war 
and victory not even Alsace could be annexed by 
Prussia, since its former German inhabitants had in 
course of time become Frenchmen. 

" Three years later he saw reason to change his mind, 
and, shortly after Sedan, came to the conclusion that it 
would be necessary for Germany to retain possession of 
Alsace at the conclusion of the war. To the annexation 
of Lorraine he was steadfastly opposed throughout the 
whole campaign, and was, at the eleventh hour, so to 
speak, overruled by Moltke, who insisted, on strategic 
grounds, that Metz must become German. WilUam I. 
was of the same opinion, and Bismarck had to give way. 
But he said to me on the morning after the capitulation 

* Daily TeUgraphy August 31, 1898. 


98 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of Paris, ' As you see, we are keeping Metz ; but I con 
fess that I don't like that part of the arrangement. 
Strassburg is all very well; Strassburg is German in 
speech, and will be so in heart ten years hence. Metz, 
however, is French, and will be a hotbed of disaffection 
for a long time to come. The Emperor has too many 
foreigners for subjects as it is. We have had more 
than enough trouble with our Poles, though they have 
been benevolently governed, God knows ! And we 
shall have still more with these Lorrainers, who hate us 
like poison, and will have, very likely, to be roughly 
handled, whereas the good old German Msdsser will be 
treated with the utmost consideration. They will soon 
like us better than they ever liked the Frenchmen, who 
were never weary of poking fun at them, gibing at their 
accent, and generally holding them up to ridicule.' 

" At that time Bismarck was decidedly averse to wrest- 
ing Lorraine from France; but when the annexation 
had become an accomplished fact, he would by no means 
admit that Germany could revoke it. Nineteen years 
later, at Friedrichsruh, I asked him if, in his opinion, 
there were no possibility of finally extinguishing the 
French grievance by some voluntary and spontaneous 
concession on the part of the Fatherland — some ' recti- 
fication of frontier,' involving the retrocession to France 
of the French-speaking populations of Lorraine ; some 
compromise, in short, that would satisfy France without 
imperilling the security of Germany. ' There is none,' 
he answered decisively. * We can yield no territory to 
them, except after a lost battle. Were the cession small 
or large, it would only whet their appetite for more. 
They have held provinces inhabited by German-speak- 


n- I 

if « 

Further Conversations and Interviews 99 

ing populations for centuries ; provinces of which they 
robbed us by force. Let us now have our turn at 
holding territories peopled by a French-speaking race. 
Germany has never, wilfully or unprovoked, entered 
France. France has invaded Germany in arms between 
twenty and thirty times. In 1870 the French had all 
but forgotten their " rights " over Cologne and Mayence ; 
but the Ehine-Line cry was revived fiercely enough then, 
and would be again if we were to show a disposition 
to restore any part of Lorraine to them. As far as the 
subsidence of their resentment against us is concerned, 
we can only trust to time, as you English did in the 
case of Waterloo. That grievance died thirty years 
ago.' On the same occasion Prince Bismarck derided 
the idea of a serious difficulty arising between Germany 
and Russia, adding, ' As for England and^ Germany, I 
regard it as an impossibility that these two countries 
should ever be at war, and as singularly unlikely that 
they should even quarrel.' 

" His own attitude towards France after the war, at 
certain critical moments when her indiscretions threat- 
ened to disturb the peace of Europe, cannot be more 
aptly illustrated than by the following true story, which, 
until to-day, has never been given to publicity. At 
Lady Emily Eussell's second State reception, given on 
the evening of April 6, 1872, Prince Bismarck singled 
me out in the crowd of guests, and asked me to accom- 
pany him to a small room adjoining the ambassador's 
library, where he conversed with me on the great 
question of the day — the proposed French Army Bill 
— for a little over twenty minutes. He spoke empha- 
tically and significantly, looking me hard in the face 

100 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

all the while with his glinting grey eyes, and enun- 
ciating each word with unusual deliberation and dis- 
tinctness. After expressing in very strong terms his 
discontent with the behaviour of the French Govern- 
ment, and criticizing with extreme severity the incon- 
sistencies and rambling contradictoriness of Thiers' last 
speech on army reorganization — this was in German, 
by the way — he bent down towards me, and said in 
English — 

" ' I have cut off the spurs of the Gallic cock, but he 
is a very dangerous bird. If he takes me for a patient 
lamb that will wait till they have grown again, so that 
he may come and tear my skin, he makes the greatest 
of mistakes. This time I shall not have much patience 
— not so much as before by a great deal. We will 
prevent France from hurting us; she shall not have 
any chance at all. You may be sure that I don't want 
war. I told you that I did not in 1867, and proved it. 
Nor did I in 1870 ; but all that I have worked for shall 
not be lost because a people is mad with vanity. They 
try my endurance severely ; they must not try it too 
much ! ' 

"Not a little alarmed by this unexpected disclosure, 
I asked him if he believed that the French could by 
any means pull themselves together in such sort as 
again to try a fall with Germany in the immediate 

" ' That is not the question,' he replied. ' I will not 
give them time to become really dangerous. It is my 
business to keep the time ' — these words he repeated — 
' and I will take care that they do not gain upon us. 
They are trying, you see, all they can to steal a march ; 

Further Conversations, anij ' luterviews , i d i 

but I shall not allow it. When I was in Eussia, shoot- 
ing bears, and I saw the bear rising up from all-fours 
to stand like a man, I did not wait to watch what he 
was going to do next, but fired at him — at his heart — 
to kill him. I used to have a very steady hand, and I 
think it is so still. It was not chivalrous, perhaps, to 
give the bear so little chance. But chivalry is out of 
place with wild beasts ! ' Then he went on to tell me 
that he had instructed Count Harry Arnim, at that time 
German ambassador to the Third Eepublic, to go to 
Paris on the following Monday and officially apprise 
M. Thiers that, unless he forthwith shelved his 'out- 
rageous Army Bill,' the German army would be 
mobilized within a fortnight, and eight French depart- 
ments, already evacuated in accordance with the terms 
of the Erankfurt Treaty, would at once be reoccupied. 
Germany would then, he observed, consider herself in 
* a state of war ' with France, and France must take 
the consequences, * which,' added the Chancellor, with 
characteristic brutality of frankness, 'will assuredly 
be a heavy penalty in money, the loss of her navy, 
and a further reduction of territory that will drag 
her down to the status of a third-class Power. 
You may let your editors in London know all this — 
indeed, I wish you to do so — and they may make what 
use they please of it, as long as neither they nor you 
afford the slightest clue to the source of your informa- 
tion. Of absolute discretion in this respect I ask you 
to assure me on your honour. You will do the French 
a good turn if you warn them that the Prussian Eagle, 
too, has strong talons and a sharp beak, always ready 
to scratch and bite.' 

102 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" The desired warning was conveyed to France by the 
Daily Telegraph in a leading article, which frightened 
Thiers and the Assembly well-nigh out of their wits, 
and convulsed the Paris Bourse with panic. These 
were precisely the effects which Bismarck aimed at 
achieving when he authorized me to communicate his 
startling disclosures to my principals, with power to 
impart their purport to the world at large, his only 
stipulation being that he should not be compromised, 
directly or indirectly, as the author of the revelations 
here reproduced in his own words. On my part and on 
that of my chiefs, the bargain was kept loyally and to 
the letter. "We are relieved from our obligation of 
secrecy by the great statesman's death. The cov.}:) 
devised by Bismarck, and which he had resolved to 
carry out with the aid of the Daily Telegraph — for he 
told me that if he had not met me at the Embassy that 
evening he would have written to me early the following 
(Sunday) morning to ask me to call upon him at midday 
— was perfectly successful, and saved him from the 
unpleasant necessity of assuming an invidious attitude 
towards France — an attitude of which the comity of 
civilized nations would assuredly have disapproved. 
He had sufficient confidence in his expedient to keep 
Harry Arnim back for forty-eight hours, and, sure 
enough, as soon as the ominous disclosures had reached 
the cognisance of the President of the Eepublic, M. 
Thiers telegraphed to Gontaut-Biron, the French 
ambassador in Berlin, instructing him to make such 
offers in relation to the payment of the war indemnity 
as would satisfy Bismarck on that point, and such 
promises with respect to the postponement of the Army 

Further Conversations and Interviews 103 

Bill as would deprive the Chancellor of a legitimate 
pretext for interference with French legislation. 

" Peculiarly characteristic of the unexpectedness with 
which Prince Bismarck was wont to pass from one 
subject to another in the course of conversation, was 
the serious lecture he was good enough to favour me 
with, after he had apparently dismissed the sins of 
Prance and follies of Thiers from his mind, on the 
subject of British army reforms then in contemplation 
— I think, by Mr. Cardwell. Some of his remarks 
struck me as being very much to the point. 'You 
Englishmen,' he said, ' should not be so hot to imitate 
Prussia. Nations that imitate do not do much good. 
Look at Italy. She has always imitated, first France, 
then us ; and she could not win anything without help. 
Nations should keep their individualities. The system 
that suits us does not suit you, your habits, your 
character. Your army did very well ; it was English. 
Perhaps it will not be improved by being made half 
Prussian, an eighth French, and the rest nothing in 
particular. It will be good for you if you go back a 
little to your Conservatives, who are not the worst of 
your patriots, and who know more about governing, 
although they may be less clever, than do the Piadicals 
and Specialists.' I ventured to remark that he was not 
practising as he preached. He replied, ' That is because 
I am making a Germany. You have your England 
ready-made to hand. There is no need for you to upset 
anything more. Take care that you do not spoil your 
people!' With this' piece of remarkable advice he 
concluded a conversation in the course of which the 
fate of France had hung trembling in the balance." 

104 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

The Futuee of Austkia-Hungaky 
February 28, 1874 

(Narrated by Maurus Jokai) 

" The Prince first spoke about Austria-Hungary, and 
I listened. 

" ' It is necessary that a consolidated State like yours 
should exist in Central Europe. I recognized that 
already in 1866, when I hastened to conclude a peace 
which was not agreeable to many of our friends. The 
German element is called to govern in Cisleithania, 
the Magyar in Transleithania. Your King is a per- 
fectly popular and beloved sovereign in Hungary. 
Every race is bound to him by love. You may rest 
assured that this harmony, on which your future is 
founded, will not be destroyed by outward influences, 
and that whoever wishes to trouble the peace of 
Austria - Hungary will find himself opposed by 

" ' And Eussia ? ' I interrupted. 

" ' You have nothing to fear from Eussia. Its terri- 
tory from Japan to the Baltic is so extensive that 
Galicia would be but a small addition to it. It there- 
fore extends its conquests in Asia to afford occupation 
to its discontented elements. The Czar and the Eussian 
Government wish to. have peace.' 

" I permitted myself to express my fears for the 
event of a change of sovereigns. 

" * Believe me, the Eussian Czarewitch will pursue the 
same policy as his father. He is an honest family man, 


Further Conversations and Interviews 105 

loving peace and quiet, and he will never think of 
planning campaigns like Tamerlane or Napoleon, or 
of continuing Peter the Great's testament/ 

Bismarck and Mk. John Booth of Klein-Flottbeck 

The following interesting diary notes by Mr. John 
Booth,* a neighbour of the Chancellor's at Friedrichsruh, 
record his personal reminiscences of Prince Bismarck 
from 1878 up to the Prince's death. 

Mr, John Booth, whose ancestors emigrated from 
Scotland to Hamburg, inherited the large horticultural 
gardens at Klein-Flottbeck, which were established by 
his father between 1820-48, and were chiefly devoted 
to the acclimatization of valuable foreign trees. 

Following in his father's footsteps, Mr. Booth de- 
voted his energies to this object for many years, and 
it is in no small part due to his disinterested efforts 
that so much has been done for the improvement of 
the German forest. Over a hundred experimental 
nurseries were established in various parts of the 
Fatherland at his suggestion, but it was only by 
Bismarck's sympathetic support that the blind bureau- 
cratic opposition to this project was overcome. With 
a view to enlisting the Prince's powerful influence in 
this project. Booth forwarded a copy of his pamphlet 
on the Douglas pine to the Prince, and asked for per- 
mission to plant a few specimens on the Friedrichsruh 
estate. This led in May, 1878, to an invitation to 

* "Personal Keminiscences of Prince Bismarck." John Booth. 
Hamburg: 1899. 

io6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Friedriclisruh, when the specimen trees were to be 

At this time Prince Bismarck was just recovering 
from an illness, and had allowed his beard to grow for 
the better protection of his face and throat. As they 
walked towards the plantation, the conversation first 
turned on the house they had just quitted, which had 
formerly been a summer restaurant-hotel for the Ham- 
burgers. " At my age I did not want to build a new 
house, which would hardly get dry in my time : my 
son can do that. This one suits me very well. I found 
it here, built on to it a little, and no one has any right 
to criticize ; moreover, I suffer from railway fever, and 
therefore the close proximity to the line is very comfort- 
able for me. I can get here from the Wilhelmstrasse 
in a few hours." 

On arriving at the appointed place, Bismarck called 
for a chair, and, with a dog on either side, minutely 
superintended the planting of the young firs. When 
this operation was completed, Bismarck took his guest 
for a walk round the grounds, and eventually came to 
the forester's house. Pointing to it, the Chancellor 
mentioned that he had lived there, and said, " It was 
the happiest time of my life, and it was only uncomfort- 
able when we had visitors, as, for instance, when Schu- 
valoff, the Eussian ambassador in London, was here. 
He had to camp up there " — pointing to an attic window 
— " where my wife's maid usually slept, whilst she had 
to sleep elsewhere." 

Bismarck next spoke about many abuses that had 
until recently prevailed in the Saxon forest, e.g. a 
pastor had for many years obtained trunks of beech 

Further Conversations and Interviews 107 

trees for firewood, and then sold them for parquet-floor 
blocks. He also complained of the composition of the 
Eeichstag, and the number of theorists sent there, who, 
knowing everything better than every one else, could 
do nothing — men with assured incomes and positions 
who did not have to fight for their daily bread. 

At half-past five they returned to the house to dinner, 
which for Bismarck meant invalid's diet. Mention 
being made of Count Nesselrode, Bismarck said, " He 
was a very refined man, one of the really aristocratic 
Eussians. Gortschakoff " — here he reflected and 
murmured a patently unfavourable opinion to him- 
self — "But many of those who nowadays call them- 
selves Eussian princes, excel in brutalities." Bismarck 
then discussed the situation in Eussia in such a manner 
as to convince his hearers that he would continue the 
Eussian alliance so long as it seemed to him to be of 
service to Germany.* 

After dinner the Princess handed round the cigars, 
whilst Bismarck took his pipe for the first time since 
his illness, but had to put it away again after ten 
minutes. " I believe," said he to Booth, " if I could go 
planting here another week with you, then travel 
incognito a few months, and then plant again in the 
autumn, it would be far better for me than my real 
vocation." f 

♦ The Germanophobe attitude of Russia in 1879 forced Bismarck 
to conclude an alliance with Austria. 

t Later on, in 1887, he wrote to Consul-General v. Lade, " I envy 
you your favourite occupation in the evening of your life : the vegetable 
kingdom is more receptive and grateful than politics for the care 
bestowed on it. It was the ideal of my young days to imagine myself 
as an old man, free of cares, busy with his grafting in the garden." 

io8 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Their next meeting took place at tlie end of October, 
1878, when Bismarck expressed himself willing to run 
the risk of catching cold again by watching the 
completion of Booth's work. 

Booth congratulated the Prince on the marked 
improvement of his health compared with what his 
appearance had been earlier in the year. Having sat 
down on a bench and called for beer, Bismarck replied, 
" Yes, I was very ill then, and shortly afterwards all 
those excitements came upon me. It was no easy 
matter, after the attempts to assassinate the Emperor,* 
to get all my colleagues under one hat to vote for the 
dissolution of the Eeichstag, and then to gain the con- 
sent of the Crown Prince, who was carrying on the 
Government for the wounded Emperor. But I was in 
the right. And then the Congress ! t I had the greatest 
wish to depart from Berlin at once, but I saw nothing 
would happen, and that they would all disperse unless 
I remained there. The mental exhaustion which I 
suffered from at that time was terrible ! 

" Apart from the importance of the negotiations, it is 
extremely exhausting to express one's self in a foreign 
language, no matter how fluently one may speak it — 
so correctly that it can be taken down in the protocol 
without more to do. I rarely got to sleep before six, 
often only having a couple of hours about eight o'clock ; 
I was then not at home to any one until noon, and you 
can imagine the mood I was in for the sittings. My 
brain was a jelly-like incoherent mass. Before I 
proceeded to the Congress I drank two or three such 

* May 11, Hodel's; June 2, Nobiling's. 
t June 13 to July 13. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 109 

glasses " — here he pointed to the beer-glass in his hand 
— " full of the strongest port wine, in order to get my 
blood to circulate properly ; but for this I should have 
been quite unable to preside." 

Again Mr. Booth had the honour of dining with the 
Bismarck family, when the chief topic of conversation 
was the question of who was to be invited to the 
wedding of Countess Marie, which was to take place the 
following week. 

Count Herbert had brought a packet of letters for his 
mother, who opened them at table, and quoted extracts 
for the information of all present. Bismarck listened 
quietly, and only now and again interrupted with 
some remark on the personality of one or another of 
the individuals mentioned. "The Russian Princess 

N ," said the lady of the house, "will come to 

Berlin in December." — " Old police spy 1 " interrupted 
Bismarck, without looking up. — " I have invited Count 
Mouy of the French Embassy, who is such a friend 
of ours," remarked the Princess. " Then we must have 
Arapoff of the Eussian Embassy as a counterweight," 
replied Bismarck. "What do you think about the 
ambassadors. Otto ? " inquired the Princess. " Karolyi 
is the nearest to me, but he is out of the question ; 
for if I invite him, the Ptussian and Turkish am- 
bassadors would expect invitations too. I should not 
care to have them on this occasion." 

Later in the day the Princess spoke of the landed 
interests of Count Brockdorff-Ascheberg, who was 
greatly satisfied with his Livland purchases. The 
Chancellor was of the contrary opinion. "I should 
never buy land in Russia, on account of the uncertainty 

no Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of political relations. Who will be guarantee to me 
for my possessions if the Czarewitch succeeds to- 
morrow, and with him the Slavonic element ; and if 
I retain them, to what chicanery may I not be exposed 
as a German ? * When I was ambassador in Peters- 
burg, my compatriots often brought their grievances to 
me ; but I could do nothing for them except refer 
them to one of the clerks of the Embassy, who was 
well acquainted with the customary ways and means 
of Kussia." The Prince went on to relate how he had 
one day referred a good friend of his to this clerk, 
and had asked him to come again in a few days and 
report progress. His friend returned very well satisfied, 
and told the following story. The general in question 
invited him to breakfast, and then took him into a large 
room hung with all kinds of worthless pictures. One 
of them he praised to the skies, and then declared that, 
although he would only part unwillingly with it, he 
would nevertheless accept two thousand roubles for it. 
Bismarck's friend fell in with the spirit of the thing, 
paid for the picture, and got what he wanted. 

November 19, 1878, again found Mr. Booth at Fried- 
richsruh, in response to an invitation from the Prince. 
The Princess was away on a visit, and so only the 
Chancellor, Count Herbert, Chief Forester Lange, and 
Booth, sat down to table. A dozen oysters stood at 

* The above affords a remarkable instance of Bismarck's prophetic 
instinct. For, as is' well known, the Russification of the Eastern 
provinces was afterwards decided upon in the Eighties, and this 
resulted in endless chicanery for foreign landowners in Russia. 
Germans were given the alternative of either accepting Russian 
naturalization, or of selling their property at whatever price it 
might fetch. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 1 1 1 

each place. " How many were sent ? " asked Bismarck. 
"A hundred." "I think," said Bismarck, "we will 
eat them all to-day; the ladies don't like them, and 
Tiedeman doesn't want any." And with that he ordered 
the remainder to be brought in. " The largest number 
of oysters I ever consumed at one time," continued 
Bismarck, "was when I ate a hundred and seventy- 
five, at Liittich, on my return from England thirty-six 
years ago, when I was twenty-six. First I ordered 
twenty-five, and then, finding them excellent, another 
fifty ; but whilst I was consuming these I decided 
to eat nothing else, and ordered another hundred, greatly 
to the amusement of those present." 

As the Prince preferred his game cold, a piece of 
cold hare was placed in front of him. " A Pomeranian 
hare like this is quite a different animal to a Holstein 
one, and tastes quite differently," said Bismarck, and 
forthwith cut off a piece and put it on Booth's plate so 
that he might see the difference. Then he spoke of 
his cellar : " I was formerly a great claret-drinker, but 
now I have quite left it off. How one's taste changes ! 
The wine one drinks for four weeks one can't swallow 
the fifth." 

Whilst discussing the forests of America, Bismarck 
also touched upon the long-continued depression of 
German wood, saying, "If we do not regulate the 
absurd railway tariffs and get them into our own hands, 
we shall ultimately be ruined. But even in these 
matters the German fool wants to act for himself. If 
by reason of differential tariffs, wood can be sent to 
Lyons cheaper from Hungary than from the Black 
Forest, it is an absurdity which must ruin every 

112 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

reasonable business." Next, referring to tbe iron duty, 
lie observed, "During my thirty or forty years' experience 
of estate management, my blacksmiths' bills have 
always increased, no matter what the duty was. Now, 
will anybody seriously maintain that the abolition of 
iron duties has really benefited the landed proprietors. 
As a matter of fact, the duty plays no part with regard 
to the few prongs and iron fittings, and the country- 
man, who is always pushed into the foreground in these 
questions, practically notices no change. It will cost 
many a struggle, possibly even dissolution of the 
Eeichstag, before these hair-splittings are overcome." 

In response to an invitation to dinner, Mr. Booth 
proceeded to Friedrichsruh on the 26th of January, 

" Why have you put on evening dress ? you never did 
so before," asked the Prince, on welcoming his guest. 
"On former occasions I was out with your Highness 
planting all day, but this time I was specially invited 
for dinner." " You have embarrassed me," said the 
master of the house, " for I do not possess any evening 
dress, and I should have to put on uniform." "I 
believe," said the Princess, "that the last time my 
husband had a dress suit made was for our silver 

At dinner the Princess regretted that her husband 
had to resume his parliamentary duties so soon, and 
spoke of the inevitable results to his health caused by 
the Opposition. 

" I do not get angry with the Opposition any more 
than I do, in a war with the French, when a Frenchman 
shoots at me. I can look at N and his companions 


Further Conversations and Interviews 1 1 3 

at ten paces when they are throwing mud and stones at 
me ; but Lasker and his followers annoy me, for they 
appear to go with me, and then at the decisive moment 
act quite differently to what I ought to expect from 
them." From this he proceeded quite calmly and im- 
partially to criticize the Progressive Party and its un- 
fruitfulness. " Tell me of one single thing which they 
have accomplished up to now — when they were not in 
opposition to me. But the chief difficulties are en- 
countered behind the scenes. What pains did it not 
cost me last year to bring the ministers, and even 
the Crown Prince, to dissolve the Eeichstag ! " Then, 
speaking sotto voce, in order that all should not hear 
his words, perhaps, he added, " Certain ministers are 
nothing more nor less than assessors ; they think they 
are doing their duty and governing when they paste 
a numbered label on each document." 

Eeferring to the proposed new taxes and duties, 
Bismarck said, " If they are not passed, I shall dissolve 
the Eeichstag and retire. Generally speaking, I con- 
sider it a want of taste when ex-ministers fight against 
the new ministers; but in this case I should do so 
with all my strength as a deputy, and I should soon 
find a constituency. Above all, I want to frame our 
taxes rationally. What injustice, for instance, lies in 
the equal taxation of the income of an individual who 
draws 2000 thalers a year, and that of a small trades- 
man, official, or teacher who has to struggle daily for 
an income of the same amount ! " 

After dinner was over, Bismarck and his guest had 
a long talk about exotic firs, especially the Douglas. 
The Chancellor intended to write to the Marquis of 


114 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Lome (then Governor of Canada) on the subject. " I 
spent some time with him and his amiable wife in 
Kissingen, and I think he would willingly do me a 

Mr. Booth's first invitation to dinner at the Chan- 
cellor's palace in Berlin was dated April 3, 1879. 
Amongst those invited were Franz von Lenbach, 
Minister Hoffmann, several Privy Councillors and 
offi.cers — in all some twenty guests. Bismarck was 
somewhat late, as he had to preside at an important 
meeting of the Federal Council, at which the tariff 
reform was to be discussed. At last the doors flew 
open, and in burst two large dogs, whose necks were 
still decorated by red silk ribbons in honour of their 
master's bii'thday (April 1), followed a second later 
by the Chancellor himself. 

During dinner Bismarck asked Hoffmann about some 
document or other, and was informed that it was 
probably in the possession of some councillor. The 
Prince remarked half aloud, " It will never be any 
better with us until all the Privy Councillors are ex- 
tirpated root and branch ; " and later on continued the 
subject by saying, " Well, just as the Poles cannot get 
on without Jews, so the Prussians must have their 
Privy Councillors." 

Speaking of Delbriick, the Chancellor observed that 
he was a bureaucrat in the good sense of the word, 
" the fine fleur, if I may say so, of bureaucracy." Dis- 
cussing the rule of the ministers, each of whom acted 
quite regardless of the other, he said, " Camphausen, in 
particular, acted very badly in this respect; he comes 
first, then his ministry. Let everything else round him 

Further Conversations and Interviews 1 1 5 

get out of joint and the State be ruined, he goes up to 
heaven as a financier ' and a good man/ as Valentin 
says." Nor had Bismarck anything good to say about 
ministers of finance in general as he went through the 
list of them for the last fifty years and mentioned the 
deficits of each individual one. 

Some one inquired whether the Prince was still a 
great smoker. " I no longer smoke cigars," replied 
Bismarck. " I tried a very mild one recently, but 
found it impossible. Indeed, I believe that every man 
has a certain quantity allotted to him; after he has 
consumed it his capacity ceases. For my part, I claim 
about 100,000 cigars and 5000 bottles of champagne." 
The Prince attempted to prove his figures, and succeeded 
in the case of the cigars, but, though he could point to 
a consumption of two bottles a day during his stay in 
St. Petersburg, he was unable to do the same with the 
champagne. " Well, then I have still a good quantity 
to my credit ; and I am fond of it even nowadays." 

During the after-dinner conversation Lenbach made 
several sketches for a portrait of Bismarck which the 
Emperor had ordered. 

Another project that brought Mr. Booth into frequent 
touch with the Chancellor was the Kurfiirstendamm, 
the only thoroughfare which led from Berlin to the 
Grunewald. As far back as 1873, Bismarck had 
reported on this matter to the Emperor, but nothing 
had been done beyond fixing the breadth of the road to 
be constructed at 52 metres (about 60 yards). In 1881 
Booth surprised Bismarck with the information that 
some Englishmen were willing to construct the road in 
return for a ninety-nine years' lease of a few hundred 

ii6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

acres, of the Grunewald, where they proposed building 
villas. The Emperor, on hearing of this scheme, signified 
his approval, and at last it seemed as if this much-needed 
improvement was about to be realized. Yet, notwith- 
standing the good-will of the Emperor and the Chancellor, 
difficulty after difficulty arose, one of them being the 
canalization of the so-called " Schwarzer Graben " (i.e. 
Black Ditch). This " Black Ditch " is described as an 
" open, stinking cloaca, whose black, pulpy mass rolled 
sluggishly from Schoneberg to Charlottenburg and 
poisoned the whole neighbourhood." But since various 
bureaucrats in various ministries could not come to an 
agreement on certain points, so the nuisance continued 
unabated, though the requisite money had been ready 
for some time. 

On one occasion Prince Bismarck wrote the follow- 
ing note on the margin of one of the papers relating to 
the Black Ditch : " I can only confirm the correctness of 
this, for yesterday I convinced myself by my own sense 
of smell ! " But, as President of the Ministry, he was 
powerless in the face of the difference of ministerial 
opinion. At length Mr. Booth drew the Prince's 
attention to the danger of cholera, which might be bred 
by the Black Ditch, and by setting the Imperial Health 
Office in motion by virtue of his position as Chancellor, 
Bismarck was able to issue the necessary orders. 

It was not without good reason that Bismarck in 
later years repeatedly observed that innumerable diffi- 
culties had been put in his way in the construction of 
the Kurflirstendamm — more, in fact, than all the diplo- 
matists of Europe had subjected him to in any matter. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 117 


August 16, 1890 
(Narrated by Anton Memminger *) 

" On the arrival of Prince Bismarck at Kissingen after 
his dismissal, I received a telegram to say that he was 
expecting me. I proceeded to Kissingen at once, and 
arrived at the Upper Saline about 1.45 p.m., just as 
lunch was being cleared away. 

" The Prince's secretary. Dr. Chrysander, to whom I 
had sent my name, informed me that the Prince would 
receive me immediately. Since, however, I was clad in 
^ g^ey jacket and had left my portmanteau in my hotel, 
I said that I would drive there as soon as possible 
to put on a black suit. This was of no importance; 
the Prince wished to see me, and not my wardrobe. 
Everything happened so quickly, that, without more 
ado, I was forced to step from the dining-room to the 
Prince's study. 

" The Prince stood erect before me in his simple black 
coat, gazing earnestly at me with his great eyes. I 
stepped up to him without hesitation and grasped his 
proffered hand, as he returned the pressure with the 
words, 'You are heartily welcome.' I then thanked 
him for his invitation, and was about to add a few 
polite words, when he interrupted me. 'You have 
nothing to thank me for ; you are a self-made man. I 
confess that I did not imagine you to be such a Pome- 
ranian Grenadier. Why, you are as broad and heavy 
* Editor of the Neue Bayerische Landeszeitung. 

1 1 8 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

and almost as tall as I am. Please take a seat ; I have 
several matters to discuss.' 

" The Prince settled himself on the sofa in such a 
position that he could rest his head and back against its 
high wing, and, stretching one leg, remarked, ' You will 
not take it amiss if I make myself comfortable ; I 
often feel twinges in my legs now that I am no longer 
quite free from gout. I am also old : age is the worst 
malady that I endure and will kill me^ some day, 
perhaps just at the moment when I am most plagued 
by curiosity to see what turn events will take in the 
world. We really live in a most interesting age — an 
age which may become still more interesting, since 
unpleasant times and events will certainly come sooner 
than many a wise augur predicts.' 

" I had taken an easy-chair opposite the Prince, and 
moved a little to one side, as the sun shone into my eyes. 
Tyras, who was lying close to my chair, growled, and I told 
him to be quiet. The Prince, who also forbade him to 
growl, must have noticed that I did not think much of 
the dog, for he said, 'The animal does not seem to 
please you ? ' 

" * No, your Highness ; he has a stupid head.' 
"The Prince laughed aloud. *You speak openly, 
which pleases me ; but I must tell you that you are 
the first visitor who has failed to admire the dog. Every 
one else, and especially the ladies, who have met him 
in the streets, havfe hitherto thought him wonderfully 
beautiful and charming.' 

" ' But I think the dog as ugly as he is stupid.' 
" ' Why, this is even better,' laughed the Prince. ' Take 
care that you utter no insult and are locked up again.' 


Further Conversations and Interviews 1 1 9 

" ' Oh no, your Highness ; I have no such thought. 
How can I commit an offence in not considering a cur 
more beautiful than he really is ? ' 

" ' You are quite right/ replied the Prince. ' I have 
never thought the dog good-looking or clever ; at first 
one could hardly bear to look at him. Everywhere 
and always one can find people who do not deny their 
Simian descent, and who tender homage to their cousin, 
the dog. Why, there are even foolish ladies who wish 
to possess hairs of this animal to carry about in golden 
lockets as treasured remembrances and talismans in 
the place of "lucky pigs." If they only knew that 
this dog is a present from the Emperor! And you 
cannot have known this either, or you would have 
spoken more considerately and euphemistically of 
Tyras. Of course you have no wedding-garment and 
no knee-breeches, only a Bavarian peasant's coat.* 

" ' Your Highness, I speak as I think, and it's all 
the same whether I am in a Bavarian coat or appear 
as a Salon Tyroler before the Emperor or the Czar, the 
Pope or the Sultan ! ' 

" Again the Prince laughed. ' It's all the same — that 
is your motto. I have already noticed it in your paper, 
and I must say that Marcus Aurelius could not have 
found a better inscription for his Stoa. In certain 
situations — for instance, on the day of my dismissal, 
and since then — I also adopted a similar motto. 
I therefore retain this dog of the Emperor's. " It's 
all the same ! " I had a fine hound, a grey bitch, 
Kebecca, of the same breed as my old dog, Tyras I., 
who was a gift from the Munich Dog Fanciers' Associ- 
ation. Tyras was really an excellent dog, under whose 

120 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

protection I was much safer than under that of the 
whole secret police of Berlin. The loss of that dog, 
in fact, grieved me as much as that of my former 
" Eeichshund," Sultan, who was poisoned by a miser- 
able scoundrel and a faithless employe. As my birth- 
day happened to be coming round, the Emperor asked 

Minister how he could give me pleasure, and, 

on being told of the death of Tyras and my grief, he 
at once ordered, " See that you get him a new Reichs- 
hund" The minister, who understands about as much 
about dogs as certain " diplomats " do about " statesman- 
ship," went to the celebrated dog breeders, Caesar und 
Minka, and ordered a new " imperial " dog. Immedi- 
ately afterwards — now listen — I received a letter from 
Caesar und MinJca, in which they requested per- 
mission to assume the title of " Purveyors to Prince 
Bismarck " in return for supplying a rare and magnifi- 
cent specimen of a dog. Such coolness went against 
the grain, and I sent them an answer which they 
certainly will never sell to an autograph-collector.* 

" ' This dog-story, your Highness,' I interrupted, ' is 
very instructive, and appears to me very like a Tele- 
machiad composed by Democritos in usum delphini. If 
one wanted to be malicious, one might write very 
drastic and pointed political letters on this subject 
to Paula Erbswurst in the Kladderadatsch.' 

" * Oh no,' disclaimed the Prince ; ' I had intended 
to talk over something quite different with you, but 
your independent remark led me to the subject of the 
dog. In the mean time, I beg that you will not com- 
ment on this dog-story, as is the custom of your paper ; 
otherwise you will receive some " Berlin blue " from the 

Further Conversations and Interviews 121 

chemical factory of Drescher & Co.* I would not relate 
this story to the foreign editors who recently came 
here, but Schweniger has already told me that I need 
not be anxious lest you should publish anything that 
I could object to. After my death you can do what 
you like, though even then certain limits will be 
imposed out of consideration for the living, the interests 
of the Empire or of your own country Bavaria. You may 
consider what I wish to say to you to-day as a token of 
my gratitude because you were the first fighter who stood 
up for me with a two-edged sword, although you were 
in no way bound to me, whilst those whom I had 
nurtured have kicked me. In recognition thereof I 
will hold a kind of political council, and present you 
with a vade mecum to the criticism of great political 
events which will be of use to you as an editor.' 

" The Prince paused, altered his position, and, drawing 
out a white pocket-handkerchief, laid it on the back of 
the sofa and placed his head on it. ' I have to help 
myself as best I can. My landlord, whom you know, 
always gives me his antique implements of torture, 
dating from Till Eiemenschneider, in the Peasants' 
War, and apparently intends to avenge the peasants on 
the squire. This sofa is really a rack, and the material 
is so coarse that I should wound my bald head unless 
I put my handkerchief underneath as a precautionary 
measure. Still, what does not the force of custom 
bring about ? I have lived here in quiet solitude apart 
from the town and the world, as Chancellor, and I now 
remain here as a peasant. The peace of former days, 

* Anglic^, "You will be prosecuted by the Prussian State 

122 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

it is true, departed; people come from all parts, and 
the burden of work no longer compels me to have the 
multitude kept away by the police. I have never 
thought much of luxurious ease, my kitchen and a 
well-stocked cellar have been my best comfort. When 
one does much brain work, the used-up tissues must 
be replaced. My doctor Schweninger is of this opinion 
too, though he did not allow sufficiently for the capa- 
city of my stomach. He is sometimes too exacting with 
me, yet I must obey him ; and because he is the only 
man who has any power over me, I obey him almost 
unconditionally. I owe him the greatest thanks, and 
I consider that there are few so learned and interesting 
professors as he.' 

" * On that account,' I remarked, ' so many of his 
brethren hate him. Filicus filicum odit, says an old 
Latin proverb ; to-day it runs, ATedicus medicum odit, 
though many smile like augurs when they meet each 

" ' Quite my opinion,' added the Prince. ' But 
Schweninger is not accustomed to run down his col- 
leagues; he is even just to Pfarrer Kneipp. I think 
it very nice that Bavarians do not scratch each other's 
eyes out. The Professor has already told me about 
you, and, moreover, I read your Landszeitung. I 
thank you especially for having supported my doctor 
when a mean clique of professors and their press 
wanted to drive him out of Prussia. From the distance 
I heard the blows which you laid about you — they were 
quartes and cuts ! You were also the very first editor 
who took my part after my dismissal. You described 
the manner in which my wife and I had to leave our 

Further Conversations and Interviews 123 

dwelling, with Bavarian terseness ; your words sounded 
like the heavy blows of a blacksmith's hammer. I 
only ask you to spare the Emperor a little more ; other- 
wise people may perhaps believe that I am like a 
resentful bear who wanted to eat honey, but fell from 
the branch, which had been sawn through in a cowardly 
fashion, and was badly stung by the bees. This is not 
the case. It is only the drones that sting me, and 
their stings no longer penetrate my skin, therefore I 
remain perfectly quiet, and feel quite at home in my 
position of veteranus emeritus 'procul negotiis. My wife, 
however, does not get over the change so easily. It is 
a characteristic of good wives that they feel and resent 
an injury to their husbands much more than they them- 
selves do. Women's feelings are only aroused when 
we have regained the guiding-rope which seemed to 
slip out of our hands. My dismissal was not a thing 
of yesterday, and I had long foreseen it. The Emperor 
wishes to be his own Chancellor, to order and direct, 
and will therefore have neither a mediator (Chancellor) 
nor an intermediate station, where the horses can be 
taken out, fed, or even changed, between himself and 
his ministers. The Emperor himself lives, as he says, 
in an age of traffic. But even there a great difference 
exists. A railway can be managed either commercially 
or bureaucratically ; the trains run on iron lines which 
are always the same breadth, and the service is carried 
out in a workmanlike and mechanical fashion on definite 
general principles. 

" ' But this is not the case as regards diplomacy and 
politics. It is easier for me to make a Secretaiy of 
State for Home and Foreign Affairs out of an editor — 

124 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

remember Lotliar Bucher— than it would be to make 
a clever leading editor out of a dozen Privy Coun- 
cillors. A general may certainly be the civil governor 
of a province, but one can hardly become a diplomat, 
capable of guiding a great empire in one's old age, 
unless one has special qualifications. Diplomacy is no 
shoemaker's stool on which one can sit, stretch a knee- 
strap, and put a patch on a hole; diplomacy is not a 
craft which can be learnt by years and developed by 
rote on a roller. Diplomacy is an art. Take the 
politics of the day. Since I was once an editor, or 
rather wrote for the Kreuzeitung when I was a deputy, 
I do not speak as a blind man about colours, but as a 
one-eyed man amongst blind men, and by this I mean 
the kind of Privy Councillors who understand every- 
think, know nothing, and can do nothing. I will give 
you a whole cart-load of these Privy Councillors, jurists, 
theologians, and even philologists, all of them with 
first-class qualifications, and you will not be able 
to make more out of them than a man who compiles 
some spiritless local paper with a pair of scissors. One 
must possess the qualities of an editor who thinks for 
himself, and who creates and writes with spirit and 
force. Practice and experience certainly improve and 
tone down much, and even imprisonment is part of a 
political education.' 

" ' Now your Highness is getting warm,' I remarked ; 
'and I must say with Bliicher, "He intended that 
for me." ' 

"'Well, yes. You are none the worse in my eyes 
for having been in prison. I have been there too, but 
not for so long a time. It is a bad wine that was not 

Further Conversations and Interviews 125 

once a fermenting must. What was not Lothar Bucher 
to me! Such men do not grow on the wood of our 
Privy Councillors. He was like an organ — one had only 
to touch the register, and it played by itself all the 
chords and pieces one could wish for. Bucher was a 
working-horse without equal. When he was tired and 
ill, it was always " a good horse tries again." He was 
worthy of a different position ; but he was not always 
necessary to me, and so, like a faithful servant, he 
yielded to his master. Do you know Lothar Bucher ? ' 
asked the Prince. 

" ' Oh yes, your Highness ; I know him by sight — 
the little Geheimrath with his uncanny silence. Never- 
theless, he has spoken a few more words to me than 
to my colleagues; he also is a veteranus meritus in 
serviendo consumptus! 

" With a nod of assent the Prince continued, ' I am 
glad that I am still so active after such affairs. To-day 
I still derive pleasure from conversation with this man, 
to-morrow with that, especially since I am no longer 
compelled to wear a muzzle. I have been a minister 
for many years, and as such was forced to be silent 
about many things; but that has all changed, and 
now I am free to say what I please, because I am no 
longer forced to remain silent by binding considerations. 
And why should I, of all people, not talk ? I am not 
so old, broken-down, or faint-hearted that I should 
have to allow myself to be looked after. On the other 
hand, I feel fresher than I have done for a long time. 
I am a strong man, full of life, and feel human; this 
I could not be under the oppressive tasks of responsible 
office. I am really right glad to be suddenly freed 

126 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

from the daily burden of care and work. I had already 
begun to consider myself condemned to it for life, when 
at last I was able to give up office. What I myself have 
often wished for has now come to pass. Bavaria was 
always a favourite abode of mine, and is still more so 
now. With a few exceptions, even your Bavarian papers 
have welcomed me to your country, and have treated me 
better than those snapping curs in the ISTorth.' 

" The Prince paused here and wiped his forehead. I 
permitted myself to draw his attention to a current 
rumour which reported that a wide and unfathomable 
gulf was fixed between the Emperor and his former 
Chancellor, and that this difference of opinion might 
lead to 

"'The Emperor,' interrupted Prince Bismarck, 
'wished to create his own policy. He is young, 
takes pleasure in work, and is energetic. There is 
something of the old Eritz in him ; but he must make 
a wise use of it nowadays. I am not in his way. So 
far as I know, he has as little cause to be annoyed 
with me as I with him. My dismissal, it is true, ought 
to have come about differently, and certain incidents 
connected with it might have been omitted. Still, as 
I said, the tinder is extinguished, and my peace-pipe 
draws, though my enemies do not see any rings arising 
from it. As I said, I do not bear the Emperor a grudge, 
and perhaps the Emperor bears me none. There are 
indications which support this. Generally speaking, 
my successor follows the policy outlined by me; for 
the present he cannot do otherwise, and I am only 
afraid that he does not possess the faculty to -withstand 
the theoretical influences which now surround even 

Further Conversations and Interviews 127 

the Emperor. I do not speak of the pin-pricks directed 
against me — I can put up with them ; but, I must 
again repeat, I held Caprivi to be cleverer than this. 
In the mean time I will say nothing more about it ; 
but other faults have been committed which cause me 
anxiety, and they seem to have something in view which 
would mean a break away from my long and labori- 
ously maintained policy. The present attempts to place 
me in hostile opposition to Caprivi are the products of 
fear. They are afraid lest I should return, which I 
have certainly no thought of doing. It would not be 
at all agreeable to me ; but still, I cannot allow my 
right to say a free word and express my own opinion 
as an ordinary citizen to be curtailed, least of all by 
those petty professional politicians — who were barely 
in knickerbockers when I was already engaged in 
European politics. What else should I talk of, if not 
of those politics which have always occupied me, an 
old politician, while I pursued the vocation for forty 
years ? Had I devoted myself chiefly to sport, I should 
talk about sport. Thus I talk of politics, though it 
may not be to the taste of the " chicken-hearts " who 
fear the "coming" Bismarck. But these are not the 
only ones who are impudent towards me. There is 
another kind — the very narrow-minded ofiflce-hunters, 
who introduce themselves into higher circles in igno- 
rance of the relation between the Emperor and myself, 
and who think they can curry favour there. They are 
as much on the wrong track as those who wish to 
make the Emperor my lasting foe by their impudent 
insinuations. This, however, is a futile task, and shows 
that they know nothing of politics. 

128 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" ' For me history exists, above all, in order that some- 
thing may be learned from it. Though events do not 
recur, conditions and characters do, and by watching 
and studying these one can form and strengthen one's 
mind. I have learned and evolved my " theory " from 
the faults of my predecessors in statecraft, though one 
ought not to speak of it in that sense, for there is no 
hard and fast science of politics any more than there 
is one of political economy. Only professors can suc- 
ceed in boxing up the sum of the changing wants of 
civilization in scientific laws. The pupils then swear 
in verba magistri, and it is on this account that 
Manchester ideas are so hard to drive out of the heads 
of our jurists and public writers. They consider adher- 
ence to theoretical axioms to be political consistency. 
Tliis stupidity goes so far that they overlook the actual 
circumstances and urgent points. The fathers of 
modern Political Economy are English clergymen 
(Adam Smith and Malthus), Jewish bankers (Eicardo 
and Sismondi), French merchants and jurists (Say and 
Bastiat), and German " indoor " professors, and on that 
account our agriculture has come off so badly. Our 
whole political economy of the class-room and the 
press is a political economy of trade, and not of agri- 
culture as well. Now that the oppressed German 
peasantry wakes and calls for liberation from its un- 
just oppression, official political economy denies its 
right, and talks only of one-sided private interests, 
when in the first place general interests are at stake. 
If we do not support our agriculture, our powers of, 
resistance will be ruined in the same measure as are 
our powers of supply. The peasant is the backbone of 

Further Conversations and Interviews 129 

our army; able to weather hard times, he is bound 
up with the country, and is interested in maintain- 
ing the same if only by the instinct of self-preserva- 
tion. Town-dwellers and factory hands do not possess 
this feeling and quality, for one cannot be bound up 
with plaster and bricks, which are not organic sub- 
stances. The country is the nation. A country without 
peasants is like a King John Lackland. Without 
peasants — no State, no army. The peasant is the 
rock on which the phantom ship of social democracy 
will be wrecked, just as the army is the wall before 
which the trumpets of Jericho will be sounded in 

"'This must be made clear to the princes in par- 
ticular,' continued Bismarck, with raised voice, 'for 
they, too, are mostly Manchester men who consult the 
Stock-Exchange list rather than the prices of produce. It 
was unfortunate that, with the introduction of modern 
constitutions, our princes were given a money salary, 
and were thus cut off from their intimate connection 
with the peasantry, from whom we all, strictly speak- 
ing, are descended. If our princes had to reckon solely 
or chiefly on the receipts from their domains, it would 
not cost our agriculture such exertions and struggles 
to get its rights. 

" ' As it is with the princes, so it is with officialdom, 
the clergy and nobility, or at least with part of it. The 
officers stand closer to the nation, through their daily 
and immediate intercourse with the sons of the nation, 
than do the leading bureaucracy and clergy. Even 
the education of to-day favours estrangement from the 
people. The older Catholic clergy seclude their younger 


130 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

successors as in a monastery, so that the young men 
enter life without any idea of what it is. The Uni- 
versity has the same effect owing to the box-like 
division of students into corporations, which are full 
of one-sidedness and prejudice, hatred, and prudery. 
Being both inwardly and outwardly separated from the 
people, they think of nothing but appearances : see 
how the clergy attach importance to outward religion, 
pomp, forms, and appearances. And the youths at the 
universities imitate this; fashions, forms, and appear- 
ances threaten to stifle all inward nature. This is 
shown by the 'chopping boards' which so many 
students carry on their faces, and of which they are as 
proud as Indians of their tattooings. In my time we 
were different fellows; besides wearing devices on our 
shields, we carried ideals in our hearts, and fought with 
our strength, not with our heads. There was some 
meaning in it when we sang the forbidden song, ' The 
old shell has gone; the kernel remains, let us hold 
it firm!" Then the King accompanied the artist — 
you remember your Bavarian sovereign, Ludwig I. — 
and the peasant's son for squire. To-day the son of 
the artisan and the merchant, if he wears a coloured 
cap on his illustrious head, is more conceited than an 
exalted squire. Even our high schools educate the 
people wrongly; to-day every one wishes to be a 
student, and what do they study ? We of old at least 
learned a little Latin, and knew our German classics, 
but what do they learn to-day ? This is the cause of 
their overweening self-conceit, since real culture does not 
exist. The cavities ' — here the Prince tapped his brow 
— 'remain empty and have no space for spontaneous 

Further Conversations and Interviews 131 

thought and learning. That is the reason why so 
many educated people repeat, during the whole of their 
lives, what was drilled into them at the factory : this 
is particularly noticeable in the majority of our officials. 
Do you think that a Prussian Privy Councillor ever 
allows himself to be driven away from his college 
books ? Our old district magistrates,* who lived in their 
districts all their lives and who were practical farmers, 
knowing everything and eveiybody there, were quite 
different men. To-day the country is governed by un- 
practical theoreticians and inexperienced of&ce-hunters, 
whose submissiveness is the only gauge by which the 
ruling bureaucracy measures their thoroughness and 
utility. In this respect we Prussians are much worse 
off than you Bavarians. Although some of your clergy 
wish to drown all independent feeling in the nation 
with the holy-water brush, a counterweight is afforded 
by a portion of the old, self-conscious, popular, and 
practically trained officials. With us in Prussia every- 
body opens and shuts his eyes in emulation for the 
cornucojpia of the Ministry according to desire, secundum 
ordinem et voluntatem. 

" ' A portion of our old landed nobility still, possesses 
some backbone. The democratic parties may censure 
squiredom as much as they please, but what are its 
enemies gradually substituting ? A monied nobility, as 
in the Eome of the past, the Italy, Spain, and Ireland 
of the present. Even we Germans have such a monied 
aristocracy, which either consumes abroad the income 
derived from German soil, or plays the foreigner in 
Germany, serving foreign interests rather than home 

* Landriite, 

132 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

ones. I have nothing to say against opposition to these 
two kinds of nobility, for they are as useless to the 
country as the landless Court nobility, and I have never 
wished to have much to do with these drones. We 
must " keep bees " with our political economy, and 
preserve the working bees ; this alone is the true Con- 
servative State-supporting policy. The wage-earning 
classes — above all, the peasantry — must be maintained 
and raised administratively, financially, and socially; 
this is the only true social policy. That which your 
Jesuits and our pastors call social policy is only a pre- 
cipitate of social-democratic pains, feelings, and longings, 
with the after-thought of assembling a black bludgeon- 
guard to intimidate the thinking and independent 
citizen, and to realize their worldly lusts of hierarchy. 
The workmen will not then be grateful to them, but 
will dismiss them ; these clergymen and professors only 
manage the business affairs of social democracy, and 
they will suffer the same fate as did those physiocrats 
of the former century, who with their Latin and ideals 
of Liberty met their end on the guillotine. 

" ' " Hercules at the parting " (of the ways) is the 
motto of to-day ; on the one side you have this social 
policy, on the other the Manchester free-trade policy. 
There, clad in a clerical surplice, we go into the national 
plenipotentiary ; here, robed in the white burial cloak 
of the Jews, we enter the courtyard of the Jerusalem 

" ' The German Hercules must therefore go his own 
way ; he must maintain and strengthen the German 
earning classes, the body of the nation ; this must be 
the guiding principle of our home policy. Away with 

Further Conversations and Interviews 133 

looking towards the theoretical windmills, which can 
never be made to work, since they are designed to catch 
the wind from all quarters at one time. Some such toy- 
was placed on the Emperor's writing-table ; he then 
convened the international social conference, and he has 
already perhaps convinced himself of its uselessness. 
And thus it will be with other things — his preference 
for England among them. The serious part of it is, 
that the repetition of such experiments damages and 
mocks the very best national elements, and, first and 
foremost, the State and the Monarchy, whose most 
reliable and almost only firm support is made to waver. 
Struggle with all your force against such disastrous 
tendencies, and thereby you will render the best service 
to the nation, the empire, the Emperor, and, not last, to 
your own country — Bavaria. To lay stress on the self- 
government of your country is the duty of all honest 
and intelligent Bavarians, and I attach very great 
importance to this, because of the prevailing circum- 
stances. Political education will prosper better under 
the protection of this independence than under the 
guardianship of short-sighted and dependent Prussian 
district magistrates who possess neither land nor 
money. What will the German nation come to if the 
central power of Berlin increases to an autocracy in the 
absence of opposition ? A counter-influence to this 
threatening development must be created by a self-con- 
scious nation ; for a nation of thinkers is but small, and 
smaller still is a nation of thinkers-aloud. Everybody 
sighs for "gracious" acknowledgments or "gracious" 
kicks. There are even princes of ancient lineage who 
do not belong to the vertebrate order. I should not 

134 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

like to include therein your old master, the Prince 
Eegent. I am certainly a grateful subject of your 
Eegent, and honour him greatly for his sincerity and 
favour to me, likewise his predecessor. King Ludwig II., 
and it is just on this account that I do not wish the 
Wittelsbachs to play the part of the postilion who only 
whistled the old tune of opportunities missed. At one 
tune King Ludwig I. had nearly the whole of young 
Germany full of enthusiasm at his back, when he culti- 
vated the Teuton spirit and courage of truth in his 
country, as well as the arts. All that has been forgotten 
to-day, unfortunately, but the Prussian archives still 
bear witness to the fear inspired by this Prince and 
King, which lasted so long as he allowed the free ex- 
pression of German opinion ; when that was suppressed, 
the political importance of the King outside his countr}'- 
fell, and Bavaria went to the dogs in company with the 
German confederation. What part might not Bavaria 
play even to-day in the German nation, in the German 
Federal Council, if she only possessed suitable men ! 
But it is better to allow them to make " Hammelburg 
Tours." ' * 

" The Prince stood up, and I thought he was about to 
conclude and dismiss me, but he explained that he 
merely wanted to place himself more comfortably on 
the ' rack.' 

" ' Many men have already discussed my political 
principles. The professors and the devotees in the 
papers are unceasingly sorry that I have not revealed to 
them a symbol of the principles by which I regulated 
my policy. Since they have only just grown out of the 
* An allusion to an old work by von Lang. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 135 

political nursery, the Germans cannot accustom them- 
selves to consider politics as a science of possibilities, 
as my intimate opponent, Pius IX., rightly styled it. 
Politics are neither mathematics nor arithmetic; in 
politics one certainly has to reckon with given and 
unknown quantities at one and the same time, but there 
are no formulae or rules from which the solution may be 
deducted in advance. I have, therefore, not adhered to 
the opinions and methods of other statesmen, but have 
rather taken warning by their errors in calculation. 
Napoleon I. was ruined because he relied on his military 
successes and commenced hostilities with every state, 
instead of maintaining peace. Fortune in war made 
him arrogant and anxious to fight. His great plan fell 
to pieces after a short existence, because he did not 
exercise the first virtue of the statesman — wise modera- 
tion after the greatest successes — towards the other 
nations, and thereby involved Europe in one war after 
another, whereas I endeavoured to maintain peace after 
1871. And I not only placed myself in definite 
opposition to Napoleon I., but also to Napoleon III. 
The latter certainly only endeavoured to imitate the 
more favourable side of his uncle ; but by always trying 
to obtain something for himself in playing the part 
of an "honest broker," he fell into the habit of that 
Italian diplomat of the past century who confused 
cunning with falseness. I played my cards out 
straight; I exposed the would-be cunning with the 
striking truth. That they often did not believe me, and 
then afterwards felt hard hit and disappointed, was not 
my fault. 
" ' My policy is characterized by yet another contrast 

136 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

which refers to German home policy, whilst the two 
former principles were chiefly concerned with foreign 
policy by recognized effect, thus confirming the old 
saying, honesty is the best policy. This principle is 
also inseparable from the third contrast. The adherents 
of the national movement in Germany were in so far 
dishonest, because they aimed at a united realm and 
one empire, while they really wished to sweep away all 
thrones and dynasties. The German princes, who were, 
moreover, not taken with the movement, opposed it with 
greater hostility, for they thought that their existence 
was thereby threatened. In order to steer the move- 
ment out of this irremediable conflict, another way had 
to be chosen, and it was found by adhering to the 
historical development of the last ten centuries, instead 
of by a revolutionary and total change. It was above 
all essential to win my Eoyal Master over to the 
national cause, which, with some difficulty, I succeeded 
in doing, for my old master was sometimes very cautious 
and anxious. 

" ' For instance, he thought of abdicating in 1862, 
when the Prussian Diet offered violent opposition, and he 
would have come to terms with Napoleon in 1870 if I 
had not placed, so to say, a fait accompli before the 
King by the adroit reading of the Ems despatch, thus 
saddling the odium of the war on the French. Yes ! 
the King was sometimes very difficult to deal with, and 
would either procrastinate or refuse altogether. Never- 
theless, an understanding on the German question was 
successfully achieved, for I allayed the King's doubts by 
endeavouring to maintain the old historical dynasties in 
Germany, and with it to conduct the national movement 

Further Conversations and Interviews 137 

at length to the most acceptable goal. Countries with a 
long past, a history of self-development, and a justified 
possibility of existence, such as Bavaria, Wiirtemberg, 
Baden, and Saxony, may easily be wiped out on the map, 
but the actual attempt would not result happily. Nor did 
I see any reason why one should grudge these countries 
their old established self-government, under which they 
were contented. It sufficed that the Kings of Bavaria, 
Wiirtemberg, Saxony, etc., should cede as much of 
their rights as was necessary to found the German 
Empire, having regard to justifiable traditions and 
demands. Any other method would not have been 
successful, and I did not wish for one. In many 
instances my countrymen, the Crown Prince Frederick 
William in particular, wished to go further ; but I was 
successful. I had, though, work enough to moderate 
their appetites. Only Hanover and the Elector of Hesse 
proved absolutely intractable, and their removal was an 
imperative duty if Germany was to advance at all. 
Apart from the German national movement, a State of 
the magnitude and importance of Prussia could not 
tolerate two enemies, encamped between its western 
and eastern provinces, and always able to threaten it 
from the rear. These two enemies had to be removed. 
The other dynasties were gained over, and at last I 
obtained their full confidence, because they understood 
my straightforward and at the same time moderate 

"I enjoyed the particular favour of the late King 
Ludwig II. We corresponded on important political 
affairs until the last years of his life, and he was as 
amiable towards me in expressing his views as he was 

138 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

witty regarding the various matters in question. After 
the correspondence which he carried on with me, I could 
by no means think him wanting in intellect — no, 
certainly not. I first heard of that through the papers. 
On principle, I never concerned myself with the domestic 
affairs of Bavaria, for I had nothing to do with ministerial 
crises and changes. It is true that in the unfortunate 
month of 1886 when the catastrophe was approaching, 
I was informed of the state of affairs by the aide-de- 
camp. Count Dlirckheim, by means of a telegram 
handed in at Eeutte in the Tyrol, when my assistance, 
so to say, the assistance of the Empire, was evoked for 
the King. I telegraphed back to the count in Tyrol, 
"His Majesty should at once go to Munich, show 
himself to his people, and represent his own interests 
before the assembled Diet." I calculated thus : either 
the King is well and will then follow my advice, or he 
is really ill and will not lay aside his shyness of publicity. 
The King did not go to Munich; he arrived at no decision, 
he had no longer any will or mental force, and allowed 
fate to approach him. My old master was deeply 
affected by the King's fate. That King Ludwig found 
so much love and devotion in his last days and after 
his deposition, is the most honourable testimonial for 
the loyal Bavarians. A correct decision was also not 
easy for the nation, and on that account I excused you 
and the other Bavarian editors who at that time gave 
expression to a popular feeling hostile to the Govern- 
ment, and had consequently to pay heavily for your 
courage with fines and imprisonment. But after the 
matter had been cleared up and the general excitement 
allayed, it would have been an unparalleled injustice on 

Further Conversations and Interviews 139 

the part of those loyal Eoyalist editors if they had wished 
to continue offending the Prince Eegent, a thoroughly 
honest and benevolent Prince, against their better know- 
ledge. I am glad that you, who once headed the 
opposition against the ministers, have, after calm 
consideration, become convinced that it was only right 
to stand by your Prince Eegent. Any hostility to the 
latter would be a grievous wrong, for things had to 
happen as they have happened. The King had really 
become mad and incapable of ruling. His conduct in 
the face of my telegram must prove that to every 
sane man. 

" The various accusations, that I had had a hand in 
the changes of Bavarian ministers by retaining one 
minister against the wish of the King, or by preventing 
the appointment of another, are too ridiculous and 
stupid. Nay, the suspicion has even been expressed 
that I had helped to prepare the catastrophe of 1886, 
and that it had been put into execution, after I had 
previously given my consent, by my special advice 
because the King stood in my way. How foolishly the 
papers write sometimes, without any knowledge or 
consideration of actual circumstances ! The King placed 
every confidence in me, and even asked my advice in 
1876, when he wished to replace Lutz's ministry by an 
ultramontane one under Franckenstein. But the tall 
Arbogast did not consider himself or his party qualified 
or called upon to direct the affairs of Bavaria, and there- 
fore did not say even one word about it to them. Lutz 
thus retained his office, and held it till the end of his life. 
Another minister would, perhaps, have been more agree- 
able to me, for it was Lutz who helped to introduce the 

140 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Kulturkampf with Holienlolie, and then gave shelter 
and office in Bavaria to the clerics expelled from Prussia. 
A Franckenstein ministry would have suited me better, 
since the incapacity of the clerical regime for government 
would speedily have shown itself again, and it must be 
acknowledged that Lutz's ministry had the most difficult 
and dangerous problem to solve in 1886. The same 
gravediggers who would like to bury the healthy 
Bismarck of to-day, were then at work to drown the 
sick King in a bog of printer's ink. The "snapping 
curs " never rested. At last a decisive action had to 
follow a long and wavering reflection in order to main- 
tain the authority of the Government. The greatest 
courage was necessary for this, owing to the character 
of the Bavarian nation, which adheres with ancient 
loyalty to its Eoyal House, and possesses great scope 
for national idiosyncrasies. Minister Lutz then proved 
himself to be a clever, thorough, and courageous states- 
man. But for the future the men of the Bavarian 
nation must take care that they have a guarantee for 
their German character in the present frame of their 
self-government. This they must firmly maintain, for 
it is also best for the Empire and the German nation. 

" ' The maintenance of the Bavarian character and in- 
dependence seems of importance to me for another reason, 
which belongs as much to the development in the future 
as in the past. The Bavarians form the natural link 
with Austria, for 'the Germans in Austria are people of 
real Bavarian race. One cannot foretell how affairs 
will shape in the East"; it depends too much on the 
personality of those who rule in Vienna and Buda Pest. 
For the present the preservation of Austria is a question 

Further Conversations and Interviews 141 

of life or death to us. I am thinking less of a war with 
Eussia than of peace in Europe. I sought to maintain 
peace, and for the sake of this great object I avoided 
matters which would have given cause for conflicts to 
excited and excitable politicians. Thus I ignored the 
boastings of the vain Eussian chancellor, Gortschakoff, 
who claimed that he had prevented us from declaring 
another war with France ; I allowed him to chatter. 
We wage no war with France or Eussia without urgent 
necessity. I willingly concede to France her successes 
in Asia (Tonkin) and Africa. If that does not please 
the English, let them settle with France. And if the 
development of Eussia in Asia does not please the 
English, let them settle with Eussia. It is to be hoped 
that, owing to the disappointment which will result 
from his friendship with England, our Emperor will 
depart from the unhappy custom of the German Princes 
of playing the thankless part of the good-natured crane 
for the wolf, John Bull, by carrying on wars on the 
continent in the interests of England. When we were 
in trouble, England took the side of our enemies and 
sought to do business with both parties. Therefore, 
if England is placed between the Gallic horse and 
the Eussian elephant, we Germans will not inter- 
fere with the great fire fork, but will peacefully look 
on at the starched lord being squeezed till he cries to 

" ' But what should vje seek with Eussia or in Eussia ? 
If we were to actually conquer it, we would only regain 
our turbulent Polish neighbours, who are as little suited 
for an independent State-organism as are the Jews of 
to-day for a new realm of Judsea. Nothing is to be got 

142 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

from Eussia. Germany itself is enough for us. We 
are sated. One must never forget that the greater the 
empire the more difficult it is to maintain, and the 
more easy to crumble away. For this reason we did 
not infringe on Austrian territory in 1866, and later 
on stress was laid on the undiminished maintenance of 
our eastern neighbour. Germany must never inter- 
fere in the domestic affairs of Austria. The Germans 
in Austria will not perish; they have only to help 
themselves ; they must do as the Slavs, the Czechs, and 
the Hungarians do, and must march under one and the 
same flag and countersign. To " march divided " and 
" fight united " is certainly a proved rule, but only 
under a uniform command, such as that of Moltke's. 
But if the Ultramontanes force their way to the leader- 
ship among the Germans, I shall know beforehand 
that their aim is not for the union of the Germans, but 
for their separation and weakening. That is the object 
of the whole Ultramontane policy ; it is democratic in 
France, republican in Italy, "social-Christian," or, if 
more convenient, social democratic in black, in Germany, 
feudal- Czech in Austria ; it will even become anti- 
Semitic, so that it may deceitfully introduce itself to the 
Jews as their saviour. In Austria the Germans have 
been "big Michaels," instead of being really German 
and only German, though they have been everything 
else — Liberal, Clerical, Jewish, or International. The 
German Liberals in Austria are above all to blame for 
having become a minor party after being a governing 
one. They have been neither truly German nor truly 
Liberal. From a political point of view, they have 
neither acted with wisdom or with tact, and from 

Further Conversations and Interviews 143 

an economic point of view they have fallen to the level 
of haJcsheesh. In Parliament and in their press, which 
was a power in the Empire, they have hinted at objects, 
formulated demands, passed criticisms, and offered re- 
sistance, which must have repelled the Emperor Francis 
Joseph, and forced him to determine on seeking a fresh 
support in Parliament. He could find no other except 
the Conservative-Slav coalition. The German Liberals 
made the mistake of forgetting that the best guardian 
of German rights would be the Emperor Francis Joseph 
in his quality as a German Prince. To a certain degree 
they have disputed this function of the Emperor by 
striving to found Teutonism — but not the really popular 
Teutonism — as a Parliamentary monopoly. In my 
opinion the Emperor could not enter on such factious 
plans of opposition and government, for the interests 
of his Empire and dynasty forbade it. The Germans in 
Austria may perhaps have learned something in the 
course of time ; the great majority of the Austrian 
nobles will never learn anything more. Again, the 
Czechs repeat the faults of the Germans in demanding 
too much, and the Emperor will thus turn from their 
unbounded desires and form another majority among 
the national representatives. 

*' ' It is, of course, not always certain that the Emperor 
and his statesmen will be able to continue with a non- 
German majority for long. Those elements which are 
deficient in capacity for statecraft generally become 
boundlessly impudent, shameless, covetous, and self- 
seeking, and -must be either bent or broken. This is 
the reason why the Turk is the only possible master in 
Turkey. Europe considers the Sultan sick, but I think 

144 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

him a diplomat far above all others at the Golden 
Horn; I think that he is underestimated, and that the 
Turks are very far from quitting Europe. The Moham- 
medan creed has a good moral, is simple and inexpensive, 
and its method of educating the young is in many ways 
better than the Christian. 

" ' From what one can see and hear, the Bulgarians in 
the Balkan States appear to contain a state-creative 
and state-maintaining element. They are a thorough, 
industrious, and economical nation, and cultivate slow 
and cautious progress. They respect, support, and 
defend themselves, and please me better than theu* 
Servian neighbours, who display an effervescing and 
nettled nature, a rather too Southern temperament. 
Prince Ferdinand is no doubt more capable than most 
other princes, and than the comic papers represent him 
to be ; but he is unfortunately surrounded by too many 
questionable persons — and, do what he will, he cannot 
possibly have them all hanged. Of course, rascals like 
Major Panizza must be hanged — that is a matter of 
absolute necessity. The Bosnians were really poor 
when they were united with Austria, but they appear 
now to be getting on. The military dictatorship, which 
they had to substitute for civilian bureaucracy, acts 
with firmness and severity, clemency and justice. Their 
economic circumstances are improving, railways and 
roads are being constructed, and the State finances are 
favourable. Civilization progresses, and Austria does 
her duty there. Montenegro, on the other hand, is not 
particularly sympathetic to me. The Montenegrins I 
have seen are big men, but I could find no pleasure in 
their stubborn and truculent demeanour and peculiarly 

Further Conversations and Interviews 145 

unpleasant expression. The Eussians can read the 
Montenegrin writing, but the Slavs, perhaps, have 
difficulty in understanding each other's languages and 
dialects. It would, therefore, not have been so difficult 
for Austria to Germanize its Slavs if she had understood 
her German functions earlier. I call to mind the 
Slavonic Congress at Moscow, where the delegates had 
to speak German in order to make themselves under- 
stood. Thanks to its size, and its inherent attractive 
force, Eussia has more capacity for assimilating the 
southern Slavonic nations. Germany has no direct 
interest in any of these Slavonic nations of the South 
with the exception of Austria, and if Eussia could take 
Constantinople there would be no reason for our 
preventing it. The policy of Germany cannot be 
pledged in regard to Bulgaria. The Bulgarians must 
and can help themselves as time passes, if only they 
maintain a strong government with unbroken peace, 
and do not fall from one extreme into another. A 
ruler like the Battenberger, although a good soldier, 
was certainly not strong enough for a position of such 
exceptional difficulty. We were, therefore, unable at 
the time to found a dynasty out there with a German 
Princess, in accordance with the wish of the Queen of 
England and the Bulgarian statesmen. Had we done 
so, under existing circumstances, we should then have 
assumed the duty of taking, to a certain degree, the bride 
and bridegroom under our political protection. Such 
a responsibility and sacrifice could not be expected from 
the German people, because, of course, they had no 
direct interest in Bulgaria. The Prince should have 
married some Eussian Princess — there are plenty of 


146 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

them — or a Duchess of Leuchtenburg. We could not 
send a German princess to an incomplete and insecure 
position. That which afterwards occurred proved me 
to be in the right. It is, moreover, difficult to under- 
stand why the Battenberger withdrew immediately 
after he had been brought back in triumph. The evil 
memory of that night on which he was kidnapped 
and sent away, must have retained its hold on his 
thoughts. When those few rascally officers and cadets 
forced their way into his room, he should have taken 
the precaution to have a powder-cask before him, and 
should have threatened, fuze in hand, to set it alight — 
the whole of the miserable company would then have 
fled. The Battenberger was no statesman ; he was not 
suited for that throne, and a German Princess even 
less so. In short, we Germans have only one interest 
at stake in the East and South-East, and that is the 
preservation and future of Austria - Hungary. Our 
policy there must be restricted to that object. 

" ' It is greatly to be regretted that so many Hungarian 
peasants in Hungary grow poor and emigrate ; there is 
more than enough good arable soil for them there, and 
besides, the Slowaks are a good-tempered agricultural 
people, who might easily be Magyarized, and should not 
be allowed to perish. The Saxons of Transylvania have 
always been a deserving race, the best Germans of 
Hungary. The Croats, too, are well developed physically 
and morally, they always were among the best soldiers, 
and are a useful people in other ways; but none of 
these nations will survive one thing — the remarkable 
and rapidly spreading pauperization of their peasantry. 
A statesman should realize that the peasants must have 

Further Conversations and Interviews 147 

their own holdings, and the preservation of their class 
— administratively free and independent — must become 
the aim of the Hungarian State, for it stands higher 
than the value of mortmain, let people call it what they 
will. The Hungarians have statesman-like men, and it 
is to be hoped that they will find a minister who 
will cut through this knot if he cannot untie it. But 
the Hungarians must on no account delay too long, or 
else patriotism will lose itself in pauperism. The same 
applies to Germany also. "We too have sufficient 
politicians, both Eed and Black, to whom an economi- 
cally well-situated peasantry is not agreeable, since it is 
opposed to the objects of their rule. The poorer the 
peasants the more abject and characterless they are. 
Where the peasants remain well to do, there more 
personal and political independence is to be found. 
When the peasant owns property, he sings and dances, 
and this the bigots will not tolerate; they wish to 
subdue light-heartedness and the social intercourse of 
the sexes, to emasculate the spirit of the people and 
make them stupid — this has always been the aim of the 
zealots and Pharisees.' " 

January 5, 1891 

(Narrated by Max Bewer *) 

One evening in January, 1891, the conversation 
eventually turned on the various philosophic systems. 
* Hamburger Korrespondent, January, 1891, 

148 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" Hegel/' observed the Prince, " was taught every- 
where in my time, but I only acquired enough know- 
ledge of him for my examination. I am not conscious 
of any inward impression made on me, for as I gradually 
became a jurist by beer-drinking and the duelling- 
ground, the contemplation of natural life has influenced 
me more than did the philosophers. With this 
natural tendency, I felt myself drawn to Spinoza rather 
than to Hegel. Hegel really thought first of all of his 
audience, in order to be able to lecture on something. 
In comparison with Spinoza, he worked on cultivated 
soil, whilst Spinoza's thoughts grew immediately out of 
nature. With the aid of German books, I studied 
Spinoza in the Latin text. He was an aristocratic Jew, 
for the Dutch Jews were chiefly recruited from the 
Portuguese Jewish nobility." 

" Your Highness," observed Bewer, " like the author 
of Bemhrandt als Erzieher, recognizes a nobility of 
Jewry ? " 

" Certainly," replied the Prince. " The Jews are the 
most tenacious race, even more so than the Poles." 

In reply to a query as to whether Spinoza's pan- 
theistic philosophy had had any influence on him, 
Bismarck replied, " Christianity has had a much, much 
greater one, the greatest. I have not been quite able to 
get through Kant," he continued. "What he says 
about morality, especially about the Categorical Impera- 
tive, is very beautiful ; but I live for choice, without 
the sense of the Imperative. I have, moreover, never 
lived according to principles ; when I have had to act, 
I have never asked myself, ' According to what principles 
are you now going to act V I set to work, rather, and 

Further Conversations and Interviews 149 

did what I considered good, and I have often been 
reproached with having no principles." 

On being reminded of a letter* which he wrote in 
reply to such a representation, the Prince smiled, and 
said that he would have preferred the letter to remain 
unpublished ; he had received many similar letters from 
other friends, and especially from his old acquaintance 

" In my youth I often discussed with a philosophi- 
cally minded cousin, who would have liked to ' mother ' 
me, as to whether I must adopt principles or not. At 
last I said to her, and our differences came therewith 
at once to an end, * If I am to go through life with 
certain given principles, it seems to me as if I had to 
pass through a narrow forest track, holding a long pole 
in my mouth.' " 

♦ " I am heartily sorry if I am the cause of annoyance to believing 
Christians, but I am certain that that cannot be avoided in my 
profession. I will not discuss the fact that there are among my 
opponents many Christians, who are doubtless far in advance of 
me on the road to salvation, and with whom I still have to live 
in disagreement on account of that which is earthly on both sides. 
... Is the man who will not cause wrath just or unjust under 
such circumstances ? . . . Would to God that, beyond that which is 
known to the world, I had not other things on my conscience for 
which I hope for forgiveness, trusting only to the Blood of Christ. 
. . . You see by the circumstantiality of my reply that I by no 
means endeavour to excuse myself. I rely on your friendship and 
Christian judgment, that you will recommend caution and mercy to 
the critic on future occasions; all of us are in need thereof. If, 
amongst the multitude of sinners, I hope that God's grace will not 
take away the staff of a humble faith, with which I seek to find my 
path, even from me in the dangers and doubts of my calling, such 
confidence shall make me neither hard of hearing the censure of 
friends nor angry against unloving and haughty criticism. 

" In haste, yours, 

" V. Bismarck." 

I50 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Bismarck characterized Major Wissmann as a " whole 
man." "When Wissmann asked for what special in- 
structions I had to give him when he was going to 
Africa for us, I replied, 'The only instruction I give 
you is this. Draw the bills of responsibility on me; 
I will accept all.' I have unlimited confidence in 
Wissmann. Twice he traversed the Black Continent, 
and each time the man returned with a ' white waist- 
coat.' He has never created difficulties for himself or 
us. The sword-knot at his side gives me a further 
guarantee for him. If he were to get into difficulties, 
my first instinct would be to side with Wissmann. 
Emin may be more intellectual than Wissmann, and, 
in any case, he is a learned man ; but I believe that 
if I had his profile here, it would appear that the back 
of his head lacks all the animal energy which one can- 
not quite do without in Africa." 

Count William Bismarck then related that Stanley, 
without turning round, had shot a man who had caught 
hold of the tail of his donkey. The Prince remarked, 
"Perhaps one cannot get on in those parts without 
something of that kind." 

On this occasion the Prince spoke of Zanzibar as 
" a fruit which would have fallen ripe into our lap." 
If, in a colonial conflict with other States, England 
some day had need of the aid of German diplomacy, 
the Zanzibar Protectorate might be discussed with 
England. As it was, German influence was already 
predominant in Zanzibar. An English paper reported, 
said the Prince with a smile, that the Germans were 
in the majority in the Zanzibar goal. Now they 
wanted to make Bagamoyo a Zanzibar; but the latter's 

Further Conversations and Interviews 151 

banking connections, excellent harbour, and all its 
civilization could not be replaced by Bagamoyo. The 
Eussian Emperor could not make a Konigsberg out 
of Libau, nor the Danish King a Hamburg out of 

These political reflections, which alone somewhat 
clouded his good humour, were then interrupted by 
a fresh, clear voice, from the next room, and Bismarck 
listened with enjoyment to a simple ballad sung by 
Count William's wife. 

In reply to the question whether he liked music, 
the Prince said, "Above everything; Beethoven espe- 
cially. I am not made for buying tickets and listening 
to music in a narrow seat, but I have always liked 
music at home. Up to my thirtieth year, when I made 
the acquaintance of my wife, who is very musical, I 
always regretted that I could not keep the music hours 
appointed in my course of studies. Whilst nowadays 
one talks so much of over-burdening the young, I had 
then to work thirteen hours a day — an hour of French 
and English in addition to the usual instruction. 
Therefore I had, unfortunately, to give up music ; and 
I have always regretted this, for the German is by 
nature inclined to music. From my youth I have also 
been very enthusiastic about Goethe's poetry, and even 
now I read his poems in bed at night when I cannot 
get to sleep. My tastes have also remained loyal to 
Schiller, Uhland, and Chamisso. But Faust is my 
Bible of the whole of profane literature. Clavigo and 
the Elective Affinities, are unsympathetic to me on 
account of their flabby heroes, but otherwise Goethe is 
quite according to my taste." 

152 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

The conversation then turned on the Viennese 
nobility, which was being constantly forced back by 
the "financial brooms," and Bismarck observed, "The 
Viennese nobility is measured according as to whether 
anybody can keep a first and second major domo. If 
he cannot do that, he does not pass as full value ; they 
have no other inward standard besides that of money 
and expenditure." 


May 31, 1892 

(Narrated by Dr. Hans Kleser *) 

Shortly after the conclusion of lunch we sat down in 
the Prince's study (he smoked his usual long pipe, 
whilst I enjoyed the fragrant " Bismarck Bock " which 
he handed me). Conversation at once opened by the 
Prince returning to my speech about him in Cologne. 
" One must not think that I bear a self-consuming 
grudge against the Emperor, or any one else. I am 
far removed from that. Here in Friedrichsruh I feel 
happier and more contented since my dismissal, apart 
from bodily pains from time to time, than ever during 
my official life. The people who have brought about 
my fall are really entitled to my gratitude." In 
reply to a query as to whether the order for his 
dismissal did not appear to make his retirement a 
voluntary and desired one, the Prince observed, "My 
departure was no voluntary one. To the last I opposed 
rather passively the ever plainer attempts of the 
* Editor of the Westdeutache Allgemeine Zeitung. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 153 

Emperor to induce me to tender my resignation. The 
first signs that the Emperor wished to be rid of me 
date further back than is generally accepted. It was 
not always my wish to be spared a railway journey 
from here to Varzin, Berlin, or Potsdam whenever 
important matters were to be discussed, and for a long 
time I had noticed, and they let me notice it, that 
every extension of my stay in the country would be 
welcome. The real insistence on my removal dates 
from New Year, 1890. Even then I still evaded it. 
The Emperor noticed it, and so he became still more 
plain, at first with the pretext secretly conveyed to 
me of separating the Presidency of the Prussian 
Ministry from the Imperial Chancellerie. We had 
such bad results from this separation under Eoon, 
who was assuredly an excellent man, that I believed 
such a plan could at most be resorted to after my 
death. But if a smart general, proposed by me — and in 
conversation I mentioned Caprivi as an example — were to 
be placed at the head of the Prussian Ministry of State, 
I declared myself ready to continue as Chancellor of 
the Empire alone. For just then the political situation 
was fraught with such momentous decisions, that I 
did not consider myself justified by my conscience in 
resigning at that juncture. But even this proposal 
was distasteful to the Emperor; he wanted me to be 
put aside completely, and his immediate entourage 
no longer treated this as a secret. 

" Even Windthorst heard of it and sought an audience 
of me, and this I granted him, as I have always done 
as far as possible to any member. If Windthorst 
has reported that I mentioned Caprivi to him as my 

154 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

successor, it is an error of Windtliorst's, Perhaps he 
heard from some one in the Emperor's entourage that 
I had hinted at a solution by making a general — perhaps 
Caprivi — President of the Prussian Ministry. At the 
time Windthorst was with me, I was not aware that 
Caprivi would be particularly welcome to the leader of 
the Centre. It is true that Windthorst said to me 
that he sincerely wished me to continue in office. 
Perhaps he even meant it; but stipulations for the 
event of my remaining were not discussed. 

" The Emperor then made strong representations to me 
because I had received Windthorst without asking him 
(the Emperor). I had to deny the justice of this 
censure ; but I saw from this occurrence that the 
Emperor wished to remove me at all costs from the 
direction of even the Imperial affairs. Nevertheless, 
for conscientious reasons I continued my passive resist- 
ance, but without abandoning the institutions, for with- 
out them it is impossible to carry on the affairs of the 
Empire and the Presidency of the Prussian Ministry 
with security. I did not approve, therefore, of the can- 
cellation of the Cabinet Order of 1852, which directs 
the Departmental Ministers only to communicate with 
the King through the President of the Ministry. A 
Council of the Ministry took place on the 16th of 
March, at which the situation was discussed, and it was 
unanimously resolved that the situation demanded that 
I should be requested to remain in office. A member 
of the Council of the Ministry was found who reported 
the resolution, declared to be secret, and on the 17th 
General Hahnke appeared at my house, without any 
direct commission from his Majesty, so he said, to make 

Further Conversations and Interviews 155 

known liis Majesty's expectation that I would send in 
my resignation. I informed the General that if the 
Emperor considered that he had no further use for me, 
he was able to dismiss me. No move on my part was 
required for that. It was impossible for me to apply 
for my retirement myself, since I was obliged to con- 
sider it a serious damage to German policy under the 
existing circumstances. 

" On that very day Lucanus arrived with the direct 
Eoyal commission. He sweetened it by mentioning the 
Emperor's wish to create me Duke of Lauenburg, and 
stated that he, Lucanus, believed himself able to assure 
me that if I doubted my ability to support a ducal 
household on my income, the Emperor would be gracious 
enough to take this into consideration. That, indeed, 
was the last thing wanting — to be placed on the retired 
list, like a zealous, worked-out postman, with a special 
remuneration ! I declared that I could not ask for an 
elevation in rank, which I might have had before, as I 
did not desire it. I answered Lucanus that, since the 
Emperor expected to receive my application to retire im- 
mediately I was prepared to sign my simple resignation 
at once, but that for an application of such importance 
a certain amount of time was required. I agreed to 
send the document to his Majesty as soon as I was able. 
I composed it on the 18th and during the night of the 
19th. It contains about twenty pages, and explains 
why I could not officially be personally responsible for 
my retirement under the present conditions. According 
to my thinking, the Emperor could hardly have read 
this, my last official document, attentively when I 
received the decree of dismissal, the wording of which 

156 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

you know. So long as I live, my application to retire, 
which really was the opposite of an application to retire, 
will not be published ; but if the Government Press of 
to-day, in order to falsify history, constantly point to 
my application to retire and to the gracious acceptance 
of the same, please demand that my application be 
published word for word officially by the Government." 

The Chancellor then proceeded to discuss in general 
terms the difficulties of the situation, which prevented 
him from retiring voluntarily. 

"In the first place, there were our relations with 
Eussia, and the uncertainty whether any successor of 
mine would be able to maintain them in the then 
existing sincerity and friendship. It is true that 
Alexander III. is averse to German ideas, and is even 
an enemy of Germany. But he is a prudent ruler, 
and does not allow himself to be swayed in his foreign 
policy by a certain well-known feminine influence. 
Since the tissue of lies which Gortschakoff had spun 
round my person at the Czar's Court has been de- 
stroyed, Germany, so long as I was at the head of affairs, 
was on a good and sound footing with Alexander III., 
which means with Eussia. Alexander III. is naturally 
suspicious ; but still there was one politician in the world 
whom he believed and trusted in unconditionally, and 
that was I. To-day it is different, as I had foreseen. They 
have abandoned my foreign policy at its most vital point." 

On his attention being drawn to the alleged danger of 
the Pan-Slavonic movement in Eussia, Bismarck ob- 
served, " I do not understand why a Eussia holding 
Constantinople should be more dangerous to us than 
the present one with Petersburg, Warsaw, and Odessa. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 157 

From Germany's point of view, I should not have put 
any difficulties in the way of Eussia if she had wanted 
to take Constantinople. From an egoistic point of view, 
I should even consider a Eussia in possession of Con- 
stantinople, i.e. which had made one step from Odessa 
across the Black Sea, to be less dangerous to us than 
the present one. So far as Pan-Slavism is concerned, I 
consider that official Eussia, nay, even the real Eussians, 
are not at all Pan-Slavonic. The Pan-Slavonic leading 
articles in the Eussian papers, which fill the Western 
Europeans with such fears, are not written by Eussians 
at all, but chiefly by Poles, whose aim it is to incite 
Slav and Teuton against each other in the hope of 
creating a new Polish kingdom at their expense, no 
matter which side be victorious. 

" There is by nature a fundamental difference between 
Eussians and Poles. At the bottom of his tempera- 
ment the Eussian is a dreamer and an enthusiast, if you 
will, a silent Eomanticist ; the Pole is an intriguer, 
hypocritical, untruthful and unreliable, quite incapable 
of maintaining a State organization — to-day he overflows 
with Jescze Polska, to-morrow it is WaschlapsH and 

" The Eussian is therefore as hateful to the Pole as 
is the Teuton, but that does not interfere with his 
working with either, nor from being in the pay of both. 
As I have already said, those who champion the Pan- 
Slavonic ideas in the Eussian papers are Poles. What 
I have said does not imply that there are not in- 
dividuals of eminent learning and high character 
among them. I am speaking of the general character, 
and particularly of the political character, of the Pole. 

158 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

During my official career I have had to conquer many 
obstacles and annoyances created for me by Poles. The 
youthful love of the Emperor William for a Princess 
Eadziwil resulted in the creation of a multitude of Polish 
connections, which the Emperor, with his chivalrous 
tenderness, maintained during his life. All kinds of 
Polish political intrigues were carried on at Court, 
against which I have often had to fight a hard battle. 
The Pole is always engaged in proselytizing, and the 
Polish women are untiring therein and also successful. 
Therefore the suppression of Poledom, which is every- 
where political and ' Great-Polish,' must not be lost 
sight of. To favour Poledom would also put us on a 
bad footing with Eussia. Unfortunately, this favouritism 
came into full swing immediately after my dismissal. 
The appointment to the Archbishopric of Gnesen of a 
well-known champion of the ideas of Great-Poledom 
was especially weak and reprehensible, both as a matter 
of foreign and domestic policy." 

After a digression to discuss the characteristics of the 
old Emperor, Dr. Kleser asked the Prince, in connection 
with the Chancellor's great speech in February, 1887, 
whether there had been any difference of opinion 
between him and Moltke on the question of a declara- 
tion of war with France. 

" Certainly," replied Bismarck, " and Moltke's view 
found more support than mine, which did not gain the 
day so easily. > In my Eeichstag speech I gave my 
reasons why I was against a so-called preventive war 
with France. My personal conviction, gained from 
the study of history, is that it is unwarrantable to enter 
upon a war with a weaker opponent at an apparently 

Further Conversations and Interviews 159 

suitable date, merely because the opponent at that time 
threatens to attack you as soon as he is strong enough to 
do so. Some of the French who threatened us five years 
ago are already dead to-day, and in all probability hardly 
one of them will be alive at the time when France may 
see her chance of attacking us. But I will go still 
further, and maintain that, if Germany retains only 
semi-capable statesmen, France will never have such 
an opportunity. During my time in office she certainly 
did not have one, and by herself alone she can hardly 
ever catch us up in a military sense. Moreover, 
Providence, or, if you will, the course of the history of 
the world, often takes care that, when a warlike feeling 
prevails, circumstances prevent its gratification. There 
was a time, after the Peace of Berlin, when Eussia 
appeared anxious for war. But the progress we had 
made in the manufacture of guns and projectiles and 
the preparation of powder, which Eussia could not 
equal quickly enough, prevented the possibiKty of war 
until the desire for war had vanished. Moreover, a 
personal argument in favour of peace existed for me 
in the thought of my old master. Where should 
we have left the Emperor during a war? At his 
age he could not have gone through the campaign; 
and do you think he would have remained behind in 
Berlin and have allowed the army to march out of the 
Brandenburg Gate without him ? It would, I believe, 
have been possible for me, in spite of his deep-seated 
aversion to the horrors of a new war, to induce him 
to consent to such if I had given him the assurance 
that I was convinced that the war was unavoidable 
to secure the future of Germany, for he would then 

i6o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

have felt it his duty to consent to it. Since I did not 
then possess this conviction, which I have not even 
to-day — in spite of the deterioration of our relations 
since my dismissal, Germany simply remained on the 
side of peace. No one in the world believes that we 
did this on account of weakness." 

Eeference was then made to the rumours that Bismarck 
wished to be " reconciled " to the Emperor before going 
to Vienna, where his son's marriage was to take place. 

The Prince remarked, " These communications pro- 
ceed from the present Government, and have no further 
object than to invest me with the appearance of feeling 
guilty in some respect towards the Emperor, by in- 
venting a desire for reconciliation. The words 're- 
conciliation with the Emperor' are in themselves an 
absurdity, were it only for the reason that a situation 
does not exist which a ' reconciliation ' presupposes — 
at least, not on my part. My criticism is solely directed 
against the wrong political methods which my successor 
and his colleagues have adopted, for they fill me 
with anxiety for the Empire. Seldom, perhaps never, 
have I been so deceived in a man's capabilities as 
I was in Caprivi's. Perhaps, after all, there can be no 
more unsuitable preparatory career for the direction 
of the affairs of the State Secretariate in the Foreign 
Of&ce than that of a State counsel. The King is above 
all criticism ; no remark of mine is directed against 
him, and I beg you, as well as all visitors, who publicly 
support my political views, to leave the personality 
of the Emperor out of the question as far as possible, 
but in any case not to attack him. During my stay in 
Berlin to treat about taking over the Presidency of the 

Further Conversations and Interviews i6i 

Prussian Ministry, thirty years ago, I learnt with real 
horror that the King of Prussia was only saluted in 
the streets of his capital by a couple of hair-dressers 
and a few court tradesmen. I then made a vow to 
myself to do what lay in my power to effect a change 
in this. I have done so, and reached my goal ; and 
though it strikes me at times that I may have even 
overshot the mark, this is less serious than the other 
condition would be. Therefore, not a word against the 
King. But the ever-recurring insinuations as if I were 
stretching out my hand, or ought to take the first step 
towards a reconciliation, are meant to serve no other 
purpose than to create the impression that I have to 
make something good to the King — in fact, to beg his 
pardon. There can be no idea of that. Whether I am 
in the King's good graces or not I do not know ; I have 
done nothing to forfeit them, and therefore I can do 
nothing to regain them. Now and again there comes 
a visitor, who thinks he must needs tell me that the 
Emperor wishes to approach me again. These expressions 
of opinion I judge from the same point of view ; they 
are apocryphal because they are absurd in themselves. 
According to my conviction, the Emperor does not desire 
any other relations with me but those which he himself 
has created. 

"The circumstances under which I had to quit the 
Chancellor's Palace were indeed most insulting to me 
and my family. Contrary to all custom, I was not even 
left in of&ce until my successor was appointed, so as to 
give me sufi&cient time to move my things, such as any 
small citizen's family might expect. Nay, hardly had 
my successor been appointed, than he took possession 


1 62 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of tlie Chancellor's Palace, and obliged us to pack up 
on the stairs and landings. We were turned into the 
street like thieves, and lost many a bit of property by 
the hasty packing of our things. But all that does 
not affect me personally ; it leaves me calm, and least 
of all does it excite me against the Emperor. If, there- 
fore, the present relations between the Emperor and 
myself are represented as if I desired to see them 
changed, it is intended either to show the world that 
others are free from blame as regards myself, or, in the 
event of a 'reconciliation' taking place, I should be 
represented as the party that has begged off. Eor 
nothing in the world will I allow this suspicion to be 
thus cast upon me, as if I had committed some fault, 
or even shown a want of respect towards the reigning 
Emperor. Probably the people who spread such reports 
know that they can only call forth a denial on my part, 
thus making the so-called ' reconciliation ' impossible on 
my side. That, perhaps, is the reason why these reports 
always crop up again, but they do not move me." 

Then the Prince continued— 

" I had long foreseen that things were bound to happen 
with the Emperor and me as they came about, and only 
from a pure sense of duty did I hold out, by the 
exercise of great self-control, and put off my retirement 
as long as I could. I was, therefore, not taken by 
surprise, though, on the other hand, I do not conceal 
from you that I was grievously disappointed in the 
German people. I thought they possessed more political 
judgment. It is not the faithlessness and defection of 
a few that pained me, but the complete inertia of the 
whole nation, which is apparently not able to perceive 


Further Conversations and Interviews 163 

wliat drives me to criticism. It is not a personal 
grudge, nor revenge, nor even a wish to regain power, 
but the anxiety, the heavy anxiety, which robs me of 
many a night's rest, about the future of the Empire 
founded with such costly and heavy sacrifices." 

Dr. Kleser assured the Prince that only a slight 
opportunity was necessary to rouse the deep-seated 
feeling of the nation from its apparent apathy. 

The Prince was sceptical, but his interviewer proved 
to be right, for only a fortnight later the " Urias " letter 
of Count Caprivi to the German ambassador at Vienna 
caused the sentiments of the German nation to be 
proclaimed with no uncertain voice. 

Bismarck and the Anti-Semites 
Kissing en, July, 1892 

A South German politician, who was honoured with a 
seat at the Prince's table, recorded the following notes * 
on Bismarck's views regarding the Jewish Question. 

Bismarck considered that a combination of the Jewish 
and German elements was useful. There was some- 
thing in the Jews that the German did not possess. 
They imparted to the population, especially of large 
towns, a mousseux that otherwise would be wanting, as 
well as impulses and emotions, which would hardly 
exist to the same degree under other circumstances. 
Apart from all considerations of justice and humanity 
* Wiener Neue Freie Presse, January, 1898. 

164 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

he did not see any way by which the aims of the 
Anti-Semites might be realized. If one questioned 
them about the practical execution of their plans, 
they became like the Social Democrats; they were 
unable to propose anything that could be practically 
carried out; their recipes were not applicable to the 
organism of the State of to-day. Moreover, what could 
one do? Measures like Bartholomew's Eve or the 
Sicilian Vespers could hardly be proposed even by the 
Anti-Semites themselves. Nor could the Jews be 
expelled without grave injury to the national welfare. 
Any measures by which the Jews would be excluded 
from judicial and other positions in the State would 
only increase the evil which the Anti-Semites thought 
they had to do away with. For then the same Jewish 
intelligence, to which public careers would be closed, 
would embrace those fields in which the over-weight 
of the Jews is already said by the Anti-Semites to be 
intolerable, i.e. those of commerce. 

The Prince then stated his opinion that the Jewish 
movement sprang less from religious and social instincts 
than from economic reasons. He mentioned as a fact 
that the Jews are greatly superior to the other ele- 
ments of the population in making money. Their 
superiority rests on qualities which, whether they are 
pleasing or not, cannot be removed by measures of 
State. The Jews, by reason of their natural disposi- 
tions, were geneMly more clever and skilful than 
Christians. They were also, at any rate so long as 
they had not made their fortunes, if perhaps not more 
industrious at least more frugal and saving than their 
Christian competitors. To this must be added the fact 

Further Conversations and Interviews 165 

that the Jew would risk something more readily once in 
a way in order to gain a commercial advantage, and in 
applying his methods to gain his object, would also act 
more kind-heartedly than his Christian competitor. All 
this gives him an advantage in commerce which could 
not legally be taken away. Even the Anti-Semites had 
up till then been unable to suggest anything which 
might paralyze this advantage and its effect on the 
economic life of the nation. Their proposals had hitherto 
been impracticable, and no government would be found 
able to carry them out. It was also inadvisable for the 
State to put obstacles in the way of the pursuit of gain 
and fortune, for the other elements of the population 
would thereby suffer equally, and the national wealth 
would decrease. 

It is not necessary on that account to allow the 
Jews to dominate, or to make one's self dependent 
on them financially, as is the case in some States. 
In his own dealings, as a minister, with the haute 
finance, he had always placed them under an obligation 
to him. 

He considered the Jews to be useful members of the 
State of to-day, and thought it unwise to molest them. 
The rich Jew especially was generally a regular taxpayer 
and a good subject. 

Finally the Prince spoke about his personal relations 
with Jews, and remarked inter alia that he had really 
reaped ingratitude at their hands. No statesman had 
done more for their emancipation than he had ; yet, in 
spite of this, it was just the Progressive and Eadical 
papers, in the hands of the Jews, which attacked him 
most violently. But he did not take that too much to 

1 66 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

heart ; the reason was, probably, that the owners of the 
papers considered it due to their Liberal or Eadical 
spirit not to allow the memory of that, for which they 
as Jews had to thank him, to influence the attitude of 
their papers with regard to him and his policy. On the 
other hand, he had witnessed many a trait of Jewish 
gratitude. Whilst he was farming his Pomeranian 
estate he, like all other landowners there, often employed 
a local Jew. One day the Jew became bankrupt, and 
came to him with the entreaty not to lodge a claim 
that he had against him, because then he would be 
able to get off unpunished. Bismarck consented, and 
allowed his claim to lapse. The old man showed his 
gratitude later on, by making payments every year, 
which he was not legally bound to do, and continued 
to do so until the Prince moved away from the neigh- 
bourhood, and said to him, "That's enough; let us 
wipe out the remainder." 

Jtcne 24, 1896 * 

" Several of my previous visits to Friedrichsruh hap- 
pened to coincide with the anniversary of some more 
or less important date in the history of Prince Bismarck. 
To-day it is exactly a quarter of a century since the 
old Emperor William drew up and signed the letter 
in which he announced his intention of making a 

* New Tork Herald, July 12, 1896. 

Further Conversations and Interviews 167 

present of the estate of Friedriclisruli to his faithful 

" It was, therefore, with a feeling fraught with aus- 
picious augury that I found myself once more within 
the homely precincts of the renowned Schloss in the 
Sachsenswald. One of Herr von Lenbach's masterly por- 
traits of his hero looked down on me from the wall as I 
entered one of the numerous rooms on the ground floor. 
An engraving of Bismarck inscribed with Chinese 
characters, just received, evidently — or let us say pre- 
sumably — ' made in China,' occupied a chair ; and there 
stood the magnificent oak chime clock — a grandfather's 
clock on a colossal scale — which I had often admired 
before. Several busts of Bismarck were stowed away in 
odd comers, as if to make room for the more imper- 
sonal offerings with which the consoles and chiffoniers 
of the room were still loaded, notwithstanding that 
a vast collection of presents, representing a money 
value of many million of marks, has from time 
to time been sent away to the Bismarck museum at 

"The Prince's grandsons, the young Eantzaus, hap- 
pened to be in the room with their tutor grinding their 
way through the Greek grammar, and were not over 
sorry to be interrupted, I fancy. 

" ' Grosspapa is not about yet, Mr. X .' And the 

tutor added that His Highness had not enjoyed a good 
night's rest, and that lunch had been put off a little late 
in consequence. However, it was not very long before 
the doors were thrown open, men servants passed to 
and fro, Dr. Chrysander appeared on the scene carrying 
an important-looking parcel of letters and newspapers 

1 68 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

and we were informed tliat Prince Bismarck was already 
in the drawing-room, and lunch was served. 

" It was nearly a year since I had last seen Germany's 
great Chancellor ; but he had certainly not aged in out- 
ward appearance in the interval. His complexion is of 
the same healthy hue as ever, and his large blue eyes, 
yet undimmed, flash their old fire. Only the neuralgia 
from which he has long suffered seemed to have become 
more acute of late, for I noticed that he now and then 
held up his hand to his left cheek, as if to assuage the 
pain with the warmth of his palm. 

" But this was not for long, and in the intervals of 
relief his bright humour quickly returned, and with it 
his vivid interest and participation in every topic of 

" What wine are we to drink ? — a momentous question 
this, at such a hospitable board, but one of small import- 
ance to an anxious individual whose poor head is full 
of political questions to ask, and fraught with fear of 
asking them : ' Yes, let it be Diirkheimer, by all 

" ' Diirkheimer is a wine of the Palatinate, and these 
wines are, indeed, excellent, although rather potent,' says 
Bismarck, amiably starting the conversation in the most 
gracious of humours. ' Formerly, I knew little about 
them, although I always knew something about wines in 
general. But now that such an enormous assortment of 
fine wines has been' sent to me in the form of presents, I 
need no longer exercise my own judgment, and I fancy 
my friends reap the benefit of the change. In Frankfurt 
we used to drink Baden wines, Affenthaler and Mark- 
graefler. They were cheap indeed in those days. A 

Further Conversations and Interviews 169 

first-rate wine only used to cost a florin a bottle, and 
the average table wine something like 18 florins the 
hundred litres (about 12 kreuzers a bottle).* I used to 
smoke some cigars, too, which cost the same amount of 
money per thousand (about 1 kreuzer apiece), but only 
one a day,' the Prince slyly added, ' as a sort of reminder 
— as in the case of the Eastern potentate with the 
image of death constantly before him— that we are 

" How gladly would I have sat by the hour to listen 
to kindred delightful reminiscences ; but there was my 
duty to perform, and the burning subject of politics still 
kept most uncomfortably in the background. And yet, 
who would dare to influence the line of conversation 
with the Iron Chancellor? Fortunately, somebody 
made the assertion that we all travel to excess nowa- 
days, and that the nervous system has to pay for it in 
the end. SchweniQger, the Prince's doctor, for instance, 
literally lives in the railway cars. ' Yes, Schweninger, 
indeed,' Bismarck humorously puts inj 'but he, you 
know, was born a rocket.' 

" This was a happy turn indeed, for the transition from 
the topic of travelling to that of the diflerent countries 
to be visited and their political troubles is almost a 
natural one. Thus we soon got by easy stages from 
Germany to Armenia, Crete, Egypt, and even as far 
away as the Cape of Good Hope and the South African 
Eepublic — the excellent Diirkheimer, the long pipe and 
a fragrant cigar keeping us steadfast company all the 

» * * * * 

* Twelve kreuzers about equal to fourpence in English money. 

170 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

"England and Germany — tlieir present and future 
affinities and antagonisms — a big topic for a lunclieon 
table, ay, even for to-morrow and the day after — 
particularly for tlie latter ; but, for the moment, also a 
very delicate one. The militant, aggressive German 
view of this topic is constantly kept before the public 
by Prince Bismarck's favoured organ, the Hamburger 
Nachrichten, which in its general drift may perhaps be 
taken to represent his views (and more or less those of 
the enormous number of Germans who still, and always 
will, blindly accept Prince Bismarck's dictum on such 
questions) as he does not mind them being made public. 

"But there is one vital difference between Prince 
Bismarck's personal views on foreign political questions 
and their rendering by German newspapers, their 
passionate and at times even acrimonious tone, and his 
Leidenschaftslosigkeit ; his dispassionate estimate of 
things and persons. Thus while his journalistic organs 
rave about die englische verlogene Politik, die englische 
verlogene Presse (the duplicity of English politics, the 
mendacity of the English press), the Prince himself 
remains impassive. 

" He deprecates Germany getting too excited over 
questions which only remotely affect German interests. 

"He may, perhaps, indulge in a caustic, stinging 
remark about an English, as also about a German, 
public man, but, as far as England and Germany are 
concerned, he is' against an excessive swinging of the 
pendulum one way or the other : * Not too effusive, not 
too abusive ' — this is his keynote. 

" Somebody refers to a recent Imperial utterance that 
' blood is thicker than water.' 

Further Conversations and Interviews 171 

" ' Yes, perhaps it is/ rejoins Bismarck. ' In every 
case, blood is a sticky fluid ; but I do not remember that 
blood relationship has ever robbed feuds of their deadli- 
ness. History tells us that no wars are as ferocious in 
their character as those between people of the same 
race — witness the animosity displayed in civil wars.' 

" The conversation became general. I venture to tell 
His Highness that there is a widespread suspicion in 
England — although one probably not shared by many 
responsible persons — that 'German intrigues' were at 
the bottom of the Transvaal business, — that I had 
received a letter from a very influential personage in 
England, before leaving home, to that effect ; that I had 
since spoken in Berlin to a number of leading journalists 
and politicians, among the latter Herr von Benningsen, 
Prince Carolath, Professor Delbriick and others, and 
that they, one and all, had ridiculed the idea. 

" The opinions expressed on the telegram of the 
German Emperor to President Kriiger had indeed 
varied with regard to its judiciousness ; but I had not 
met one single person in Berlin or elsewhere who had 
anything to say against the sentiment it expressed. 

" Here Prince Bismarck, without expressing any 
opinion as to the opportuneness of the Emperor's tele- 
gram, simply remarked, ' The Emperor's telegram might 
with peculiar fitness and decency have been sent to 
President Kriiger even by the English Government 

" Somebody present thereupon said that he had recently 
met some representative Americans, and that they had 
assured him that there exists a strong current of public 
opinion in the New England States, among the clergy 

1/2 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

and the teaching world, which enthusiastically applauds 
President Kriiger, and is indignant at the various 
attempts that had been made to intimidate him, or to 
minimize his generous treatment of the Johannesburg 

" * I do not think that President Kriiger is in want of ' 
any assistance, German or any other kind,' Bismarck 
replied, in his quiet, convincing way. ' It was a clear 
case of attempted burglary, or Seerdeuherei ; and should 
the worst come to the worst,' — which I understood to 
mean — should attempts at coercion come to be in the 
ascendant in certain quarters, — ' the Boers, who are men 
of stalwart physique, phlegmatic temperament, and 
good shots into the bargain, may, I think, be relied 
upon to defend their independence, and give a good 
account of their enemies.' 

" To the remark that President Kriiger had hitherto 
got the better of his opponents, the Prince added — 

" ' That was not very difficult, considering . . . and 
the clearness of his case.' 

" The conversation then turning towards other matters, 
I ventured to ask Prince Bismarck whether he thought 
that Germany, as I had heard it asserted, had, at the 
instance of Italy, urged the English on to undertake 
the conquest of the Soudan ? 

" To this he replied distinctly in the negative. 

" He remains unchanged in his opinion, so often ex- 
pressed, that Germany has little concern in these 

"And the straightforward way in which he added 
that the English had at least established order in Egypt 
would have convinced me, if I had needed conviction, 

Further Conversations and Interviews 173 

that, 'whatever his opinion may be, he is free from 
that petty dislike to England so often imputed to 

" ' As for Crete, I can assure you,' he said, ' that I 
take less interest in that island than in any little mound 
in my garden. The Cretans are, I believe, very lightly 
taxed, and, under normal conditions, should be far better 
off under the Turks than they might possibly be in 
belonging to Greece. 

" ' What the Sultan needs are good servants, and, above 
all, determination. Turkey has gone through more severe 
crises than the present one ; but, of course, you require 
exceptional qualities to cope with such.' " 

Li Hung Chang at Friedeichseuh 
June 25, 1896 

The Chinese Viceroy, accompanied by his son Li 
Ching Chu, the first Secretary of the Embassy, Lo-Feng 
and other members of his suite, paid a visit on June 
26, 1896, to Prince Bismarck, whom Li Hung Chang 
had long wished to see and talk" to. Amongst the 
invited guests at the lunch were General Hannecken, 
Colonel Liebert, Lukas von Cranach, and Dr. 

Thanks to the skilful interpreters, the conversation 
at lunch was lively and well sustained. 

The Viceroy told the Prince that to see him had been 
his wish for thirty years, ever since he first heard of 
him after the Austrian war; at last the day for the 
fulfilment of that wish had come. He had seen many 

174 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

portraits of the Prince, and had cherished great expecta- 
tions ; but no portrait came up to the reality. 

Bismarck sought to turn the compliment by remark- 
ing, " I am no longer what I was ; I am becoming old." 

Li Hung Chang then inquired after the Prince's 

"Nothing," was the smiling answer. "I do not 
bother myself about anything so that I may escape 
annoyance. I am no longer in duty bound to work, 
and I now find my pleasure in the forest and the fields 
in summer. I am by nature a farmer, and had no 
desire to be a politician." 

The Viceroy asked after Count Herbert Bismarck, 
whose long service in the Foreign Office he cordially 

"He always wants to busy himself with politics," 
replied Bismarck, "and in comparison with myself he 
has but little liking for agriculture." 

Li : " With us, in China, the son has always to take 
over his father's work." 

Bismarck : " That is generally the case with us also, 
but one cannot do so against one's nature." 

The conversation then turned on serious political 
questions of recent date, and Li Hung Chang re- 
marked — 

"I was especially glad of my visit here, because I 
hoped your Highness would give me some advice." 

" And what advice is that ? " 

" What must we do to reform China ? " 

" I cannot judge about that from this distance," was 
the Prince's reply. 

Li: Li continued, "How can I be successful when 

Further Conversations and Interviews 175 

every one at home, the Government and the country, 
puts difl&culties, in my way ? " 

Bismarck: "One cannot make headway against the 
Court. Much is possible if there is ' some sterling stuff' 
in the highest places ; if that is wanting, nothing can 
be done. No minister can rebel against the will of the 
Sovereign ; he can only advise and carry out orders." 

Li: "But if the Monarch is accessible to all other 
influences, and these latter always gain the upper hand ? 
It is the daily petty difficulties at Court which lame a 
minister's power." 

Bismarck : " Tout comme chez nous. I often ex- 
perienced the like, earlier in my career, even from a 

feminine quarter " 

Li: "Yes; but yours was such an exceptionally 
energetic temperament. Did matters always go off 
smoothly ? " 
Bismarck : " Well, always with the ladies." 
Li: "But how is one to carry out the Sovereign's 
behests in critical times." 

Bismarck : " Only with the support of an army. The 
army may be small, quite small, perhaps only 50,000 
strong ; but it must be good." 

Li : " We have the men, but training is lacking. Since 
the Tai-Ping rebellion, which again gave strength to the 
present dynasty — that is, thirty years ago, — nothing has 
been done towards training. I have struggled against 
this standing still, but in vain. I have now seen the 
best army in the world, the German. If even in the 
future I cannot employ those means which are at my 
disposal as Viceroy, I shall yet aim at realizing what 
your Highness has advised; we must reorganize, and 

1/6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

that with Prussian officers and according to Prussian 

Bismarck : " It is not essential that the army should 
be distributed in all parts of the country. It is only 
necessary that one should have the army at hand at 
any moment, and communications should be opened 
up, so that the army can be moved quickly and easily 
from one point to another." 

On turning to German affairs. Prince Bismarck spoke 
approvingly of Prince Hohenlohe, a friend of thirty 
years' standing. 

" We are old friends," said the Prince. " Caprivi 
was another one of those who say, ' It is ordered, and so 
it must be done.' Hohenlohe, on the other hand, has an 
independent opinion, which he maintains with foresight 
and skill." 

Bismarck also mentioned that he had always taken 
an interest in China, and had endeavoured to enter into 
closer relations with that country. Negotiations to 
that effect had been commenced with Marquis Tsing 
at Kissingen, as far back as 1884. The Prince then 
turned to Herr Detring, who sat opposite to him, and 
asked how long he had been in China, and what his 
opinion was as to the future of Germany in China. 
Herr Detring informed him that considerable progress 
had already been made, thanks to the energy of the 
German Consul von Seckendorff. 

The Viceroy inquired sympathetically after the health 
of his host, and asked him whether he slept well. 

Bismarck : " Frequently not ; I am often in need of 
a night's rest. ... I am not so much troubled with pain 
as by the absence of sleep at nights. The longer I can 

Further Conversations and Interviews 177 

sleep in the morning, the better it is for me all day ; 
but pains are often present." 

Li : " But does not Herr Schweninger know of any 
remedy against them ? " 

" Oh yes ! but the remedies are worse than the pain 
itself," said the Prince, with a smiling glance towards 
his faithful doctor. 

In the mean time lunch had come to an end, and 
pipes and cigars made their appearance. In the course 
of conversation with General Hannecken, Bismarck, 
referring to the Chinese-Japanese war, mentioned the 
"Kowshing" explosion, and laughingly reminded him 
that he had had a good long swim on that occasion. 
Herr von Cranach, the painter, with whom the Prince 
exchanged a few friendly words, was busily engaged at 
the time in making sketches and taking photographs. 
On noticing a white and black ribbon on Captain 
Morgen's coat, Bismarck said to him — 

"You surely cannot have received that in France, 
Captain ; you are too young." 

" It is the Eed Eagle with swords," was the answer, 
" which his Majesty conferred on me for service in the 

" Oh, that is it I " said the Prince. " I am glad to 
have an occasional African here." 

Before his guests departed, the Prince requested 
them to write their names in his album. The Viceroy 
filled a whole page with Chinese characters to the 
following effect. 

"Having heard with admiration of the fame of the 
greatest statesman of the present century for more than 
thirty years, it has given me inexpressible pleasure to 

178 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

see his Highness Prince Bismarck at his seat in 
Friedrichsruh during my Extraordinary Embassy in 
Europe, and to be able to enter my name in this book 
as an expression of this happy event." 

The Secretary to the Embassy, Li Feng Luh, wrote — 

" I congratulate myself on belonging to the Embassy, 
which affords me the opportunity of seeing the Bismarck 
of the East in the company of the Li Hung Chang of 
the West." 

The Viceroy was visibly loth to part from his illus- 
trious host, and asked whether he was able to walk much. 

"The radius of my walks," replied the Prince, 
" becomes smaller every year." 

" And why do you not drive ? " inquired Li, who 
makes great use of his bath-chair. 

" One must have movement," answered Bismarck — 
" it is necessary for one's body ; one must walk as long 
as one can." 

Li : " Take pains to preserve your health carefully." 

"Please say that again," interrupted Professor 
Schweninger, who was standing close by. 

Li: "I have achieved nothing, and can do little 
more in the face of the obstacles which I find." 

Bismarck : " You underestimate yourself. Modesty, 
it is true, is a very good quality in a statesman. 
Politicians, most of all, must avoid too great self- 

Li : " Your ' Highness has achieved the greatest 
successes by that means, and can look back with 
contentment to your life." 

Bismarck: "Here and in China the Greek saying 
applies, Ta iravTa hi—' Everything collapses some day.' " 

Further Conversations and Interviews 179 

With a hearty hand-shake, Li Hung Chang then took 
leave of Prince Bismarck, who had accompanied him to 
the door of the railway carriage. 


September, 1897 

(Narrated by Maximilian Harden *) 

The Prince lives quietly in his house in the Sachsen- 
wald, follows attentively the occurrences of the day, 
both great and small, makes comments on them accord- 
ing to his custom ; but leaves no doubt open that he 
has no wish whatever to offer ofi&cial advice or sug- 
gestions, or otherwise to interfere with the political 
affairs of the day. Although he meets the present 
Government with good will, as he would any other 
which does not force him to fend off obviously hurtful 
measures, still he would not like to be made responsible 
for its actions, and placidly, though sometimes a little 
bitterly, expresses a wish " to be left in peace." Mean- 
while, piercing voices scream his name on the boulevards 
of Paris, and an editor of the Figaro mockingly exclaims 
that he would much have liked to see the face of the 
terrible man of blood and iron, on reading the speeches 
made on board the Pothuau. Had this heart's wish of 
M. de Eoday been gratified, he would have seen a merry 
unclouded face. Prince Bismarck does not find in the 
after-dinner speeches of the Emperor Nicholas and M. 
Felix Faure any definite proof of a change in the situation, 
created between Eussia and France by the Anglophile 

* ZukunfU Sept. 4, 1897, 

i8o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

inclinations of Caprivism. He remarked on tlie subject : 
" Nations alliees are by no means an alliance, and may 
sometimes only be a mere politeness, a strengthening 
and underlining of the unimportant words nations amies ; 
I remember, during my political activity, such dubious 
interpretations which were not unwillingly listened 
to by the parties concerned. And if an alliance had 
really been spoken of, one would first have to know 
its full contents in order to be able to estimate 
its value and importance. The people in Paris who 
demand the publication of the text are not far wrong. 
I do not believe that the contents of the treaty, if 
one exists at all, would please the French. In any 
case I have learnt that Eussian policy is always 
very cautious, and I cannot think that it would ever 
embark needlessly on adventures from which it has 
nothing to gain. 

" Count Muravieff, with whom I very willingly con- 
sorted officially and personally when he acted as Charge 
d' Affaires for my friend Schuvaloff, passed as our friend, 
and I do not know why he should have changed his 
opinions. It seems to me to-day that, in many instances, 
people exaggerate the importance of journeys, visits, 
fetes, toasts — I might say, the decorative element in 
politics. They have sometimes attempted to use even 
me decoratively, like a shade of colour, but I am already 
too old for that, and hardly to be utilized for theatrical 
effects. M. Faufe, who is said to have been a capable 
merchant — not at all a bad school for heads of State — 
appears to be endowed with all manner of useful 
qualities for the new method of travelling-politics : 
he is hardened against carriage and cabin fatigues, has 

Further Conversations and Interviews i8i 

a good stomach, and behaves tactfully and cleverly, 
without harmful exaggerations and excesses of eloquence. 
If it is true that he has, in dress coat and top hat, 
greeted the Eussian troops in military fashion — his 
hand to his tall hat, — such a method of saluting was 
certainly not correct for a civilian. He ought to have 
taken off his top hat, and, like old Fritz, paid the 
compliment with his three-cornered hat down to his 
saddle. On the whole, however, he has obviously got 
well and tactfully out of the affair. Only one must not 
beHeve that pleasant impressions and sympathies are 
deciding influences in politics; there, in the end, 
interests decide, and, with my experience, I cannot see 
what interest the Eussians, who in political affairs are 
generally very cautious, are to have in coming to the 
aid of the French desire for revanche, so long as we 
do not carry on quite unwisely. Czar's Hymn and 
Marseillaise ; they do not rhyme. Nevertheless, the 
French pipkin has now got nearer to the fire, and may 
boil over more easily than ever, perhaps. That ought 
to rid our ruling masters of any remaining illusions, 
and warn them against shifting the base on which 
our defensive strength rests. It is as well that we 
Germans can never enjoy the careless ease of the 
Phseacians, and that the Parisians, who frame French 
policy, should from time to time awaken us from our all 
too beautiful dreams by their cries. But they cannot 
frighten us with nations amies et alliees : Eussian 
Emperors are nowadays too conscientious to set their 
soldiers in motion only in order that French vanity 
may perhaps find gratification. 

"The papers now reproach me for having hurt the 

1 82 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Conservative party by an expression which was pub- 
lished in a Vienna paper. I cannot now call this 
expression to mind. I do not know how it got into 
the paper, and I assume that it referred to events which 
occurred at my retirement, and during the discussion of 
the first commercial treaties. Of the present leaders 
of the Conservatives, moreover, I only know a few who 
are on friendly terms with my family, and whom I 
naturally did not wish to hurt; nor do I doubt the 
personal honour of the others. But it lies in the very 
nature of this party that it is particularly easily infected 
by the regrettable customs of party ambition. Of&cials 
who have seats, though they do not really belong to 
Parliament, who have to provide for sons, daughters, 
and grandchildren, and therefore have to have con- 
siderations, — many a one would like to climb a step 
higher in the State ; and useful relationships, social and 
military connections also play a part. Add to this, 
that my equals in rank are very comfortable, do not 
willingly overwork themselves, or are much occupied 
by their agricultural duties ; then it is that the hardest 
strivers, who prepare themselves for the sittings, and 
are well up in printed matter, seize the reins, and the 
Party notices, perhaps too late, that they have reached 
a ' crooked plane.' The gentlemen of the Kreuzzeitung 
persuasion made Ministerial life thoroughly sour for me ; 
I never was their man, and the worst insinuations 
always came froni this side. They left me in the lurch 
when the time came, first of all, to put the German 
Empire on its legs before the world. Much would have 
been different if I had then had Conservative help ; but 
I would much rather have made a compact with Herr 

Further Conversations and Interviews 183 

Eichter than with the friends of Nathusius-Ludom and 
their kidney. There was much envy because I had got 
on better than other junkers had, but there was also 
much theoretical narrowness and Protestant-jesuitical 
zeal. On my being sent away, the same people again 
had a hand in the game: look at . . . and the like 
affairs. How matters stand in the Party to-day, I do 
not know. Their outwardly visible performances do 
not exactly call for admiration from me. I often 
have the feeling that these gentlemen confuse the terms 
' Government ' and ' Conservative ; ' and I sometimes 
ask myself whether they really know exactly what they 
want to conserve. 

" Incessant arguments take place in the papers about 
the increase of our fleet. Why such noise ? What is 
necessary, according to the opinion of sober, professional 
men, must be granted. I believe we want new cruisers ; 
but I am very suspicious of parade ships, which are 
only to serve in marking our prestige, and which one 
might call lying ships, because they cannot do anything 
when affairs become serious. As a minister I lacked 
every inclination for a policy of colonial conquest on 
the French pattern, and it seems to me as if the present 
time was especially unfavourable for that. Our trade 
must find sufficient protection everywhere, but the 
flag must follow trade, not precede it. For the present 
time the most important thing for us is a strong reliable 
army of efficient soldiers, armed with the best weapons. 
That was also Moltke's opinion, and he shared the 
conviction with me, that we shall have to fight the 
decisive battles (for our colonial possessions) on the con- 
tinent of Europe. No stinginess, therefore, but also 

184 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

no fantastic plans, in which we might finally embroil 
ourselves with other people, important for our European 
situation. Qui trop emhrasse. . . . 

" I am astonished that State assistance has not been 
given at once, orderly and rationally, in connection 
with the inundations. Private collections do not make 
a pleasing impression. As many and as highly placed 
personages as possible ought to show themselves at 
once in the affected districts, and talk kindly to the poor 
people — not merely talk, but also have a decent amount 
of money in their hands. That is the chief thing, quite 
apart from the duties of neighbourly love, which the 
State has to exercise; a Government should lose no 
opportunity of making itself beloved in the country. 
And at present, it seems to me, such opportunities ought 
to be most particularly welcome. 

" The Empress took a great part in the wearing away 
of my nerves. She was herself of a nervous, unstable, 
and unquiet nature, liked to busy herself in politics, 
and became fire and flames if one did not, could not, 
at once agree to her plans. Our frictions were of an 
early date. When the Prince of Prussia was to go to 
England in '48, and I wished to see him, to advise him 
urgently to remain in Potsdam, when the whole army 
and a large portion of the country population were for 
him, and his journey would have an evil effect, she 
would not let me see him. She was excited, and 
declared to me that she must provide for the future of 
her son before all things. Later on I heard of a curious 
plan which was concocted in her palace. Herr von 
Vincke addressed me in the Diet, and said he wished 
to move a resolution to entrust the Princess of Prussia 

Further Conversations and Interviews 185 

with the Eegency ; what did I think about it ? First 
of all I asked why the Prince was not to be Eegent. 
The Prince, opined Vincke, had become impossible in 
the country. * Very well/ said I ; ' if you move this, 
I shall move to have you arrested for high treason.' 
The resolution fell through because it had no prospect 
of success without the support of the Extreme Eight. 
My relations with the Princess did not improve thereby, 
and she could never quite conceal a certain grudge against 
me, even when she became Queen and Empress. Her 
preference for everything French and Catholic also had 
an effect ; and at one time there was in her Court a 
Camarilla, which did not always employ scrupulous 
means to attain its object. I should not have been 
able to do much if my old master, who moreover did 
not suffer less than I under these things, had not 
kept his ground at the crucial moment. But these 
struggles tried the nervous system, especially when 
the Queen sought to persuade him to abdicate, and I 
had to seize him, figuratively speaking, by the sword- 
knot. I may well say these years of feminine warfare 
have told more on my health than all open fighting 
in Parliament and in the Diplomatic Service." 

A newspaper had observed that the old Chancellor 
would certainly go to Kiel shortly to christen a ship. The 
Prince read the paragraph aloud, and added, " So ? People 
still seem to think that I am like a maid who once said 
to my wife, in Yarzin, ' I can accustom myself to most 
things, but not to being alone ! ' I feel all right at 
home, and am no longer fit for festivals." 

The episode with Herr von Vincke was thus explained 
a fortnight later by Harden: The Prince of Prussia 

1 86 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

knew in 1848 that, owing to unjust and unfounded 
suspicions, he was hated by a large part of the people, 
and, because he was a patriot and a Prussian officer, 
he was determined to sacrifice himself, if necessary, 
in order to secure the threatened throne for his brother 
Frederick William ; but he had not resigned his right 
to the throne. When Herr von Vincke wished to 
propose the resolution in the Diet, that the Eegency 
should be entrusted to Princess Augusta, passing over 
her husband. Prince William, he turned to Bismarck 
with the query, as to what the Conservative party would 
do if this resolution were formally put. Bismarck 
replied, " I should at once move the Diet that the pro- 
poser be arrested for high treason." Thereupon Herr 
von Vincke replied, " Then we cannot pursue the 
matter, for without the assistance of the Extreme Eight 
we cannot get the King to abdicate ; " adding the words, 
" We know that a letter of the Prince of Prussia is in 
existence in which he declares himself ready to abdi- 
cate." Bismarck retorted, " I know nothing about that ; 
if we start such notions we shall unsettle the only re- 
maining safe elements — the Army and the country 
population — who fortunately have no idea of such 
things." This put an end to Vincke's plan. 

Another sentence also gave rise to erroneous inter- 
pretation. Queen Augusta did not wish the King to 
abdicate during the conflict ; she only wished him to 
give way, which in Bismarck's eyes would have been 
nothing less than but surrendering the royal power. 
An abdication in 1862 would only have resulted in 
the Crown being transferred to the Crown Prince, who 
had long since reached his majority, whilst a renunciation 

Further Conversations and Interviews 187 

of the throne in 1848 would have led to the Eegency 
being handed over first to Princess Augusta, in accord- 
ance with the wishes of the Progressive party. Had 
not Herr von Yincke's project been nipped in the bud 
by Bismarck's resistance, William I. would never have 
become King of Prussia and German Emperor. 



The keynote to the Chancellor's relations with his " old 
master" — as he preferred to call him — is very aptly 
struck by an observation made by Colonel Baron 
Zeddeler, the Eussian military attache at the royal 
headquarters in 1870. This Eussian officer said that 
Bismarck's features invariably relaxed and assumed 
an almost tender expression when he spoke to his 

Prince Bismarck delighted in relating anecdotes which 
displayed the Emperor's politesse de co&ur, for though " he 
could also be angry at times, yet he was never wanting 
in true politeness. As his Eegency approached he asked 
me for written information about every possible matter, 
about parish discipline, county affairs, and many other 
things. I gave him as detailed an opinion as if I had 
to train my son in political science, and was only 
privately afraid ' that the Prince might laugh at the 
elementary character of my work ; but he was grateful 
to me for everything, because he always found some- 
thing new in what I said. Even as Eegent he wished 
to be nothing but an officer on duty, seeking to do his 

Bismarck and his Master 189 

duty in the most conscientious manner." In truth, 
Bismarck never weUried of reminding his countrymen 
of the great sacrifices William I. had made on the 
altar of patriotism. 

On the same occasion Prince Bismarck touched upon 
the assembly of German sovereigns at Frankfort-on-the- 
Main in 1863, and mentioned that at that time the 
situation was very difficult and exhausting, especially 
for him. King William would willingly have attended 
the assembly. " That was only natural, as twenty-five 
sovereigns had gathered together with a King as their 
courier ! We were then in Baden-Baden, and the King 
of Saxony came thither, so that it was very difficult 
to refuse." At length, after much hesitation and re- 
flection, the King determined to decline the invitation. 
This decision was arrived at during a drive which he 
took with Bismarck. On their return an hour later, 
the letter conveying his decision was written, and the 
King himself watched the sealing of the missive with 
the greatest care, according to his usual custom, stand- 
ing for the purpose behind Bismarck's chair. On seeing 
that the seal had been properly affixed he sat down, and 
lying back in the chair, said, " That is well ; I cannot 
withdraw now." 

Bismarck then left the room with the letter ; but his 
nerves had suffered so greatly under the excitement of 
the whole occurrence, that he tore off the handle of the 
door in closing it behind him and threw it aside. The 
Aide-de-camp in waiting not unnaturally inquired 
whether anything especial had happened inside to ex- 
cite him so much. Bismarck, who in the mean time 
had calmed down— such nervous excitement is quickest 

I go Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

allayed by bodily exertion — replied that it was all 
right again. 

" Had I been such a reactionary, as I was then always 
accused of being, and to-day am still considered to be 
by some people, we would have gone to Frankfort. 
The ' Bundestag ' reaction, supported by so and so many 
hundred thousand bayonets, would then have been 
realized. But I was still acquainted with that re- 
action from my childhood, and that kept me back. As 
a matter of fact, I never was a reactionary." 

The following remarks fell from the Chancellor's lips 
at his wife's tea-table on the 15th of June, 1866 : — 

"I know the Prussians, and the Berliners in par- 
ticular, like a dreier* and I know that I hit the right 
nail on the head when, as an unadulterated junker, I 
advised the Prussian National Assembly to reply to 
every parliamentary interpellation with a beat of the 
drum. As soon as the drum is beaten and the bugle 
sounded amongst us, the rdle of the gentlemen with 
large mouths comes to an end with the bulk of the 
population. The charm of novelty for me, however, 
centres round the events in the salon of Countess X., 
for I can follow them well, since I know that this not 
exactly very clever intriguante is made use of by a lady 
of high rank in Vienna for secret political purposes. 
All these petty intrigues, however, failed because of the 
upright character of our most gracious Sovereign, and I 
am only well j:(leased that the typical Prussian Lieu- 
tenant adds to his other virtues that of leading the 
younger members of our society back to the right way 
by the bond of love. You can see how good a wife I 
* A small Prussian coin, equivalent to a threepenny bit. 

Bismarck and his Master 191 

have, since she does not even ask what is really the 
matter with the Countess in question." 

In reply to an observation made by Herr von Kleist 
at the outbreak of the war with Austria, that people were 
of the opinion that a Prussian defeat was inevitable, 
and that the result of the campaign would be the re- 
establishment of the German Empire under Austria, 
Bismarck retorted — 

"Dear Hans, you are not usually wont to be so 
timorous. The Prussian Army is not to be beaten so 
easily, and if I thought that it could be beaten at all, 
I should not have pursued the policy I have done. 
Europe may imitate us in everything, but what they 
cannot copy is the Prussian Lieutenant. Moreover, 
I rely in this respect entirely on his Majesty, under 
whose eyes the achievements of the army will be 
doubled. Every respect for the Austrian Generals, 
but they have not got a Moltke, and up to now they 
have only been able to observe the effect of our needle 
guns on the Danes." 

On one occasion Prince Bismarck related to a couple 
of Mecklenburg guests the following story about a 
Prince of one of the Mecklenburg families. In March, 
1848, this young Prince, then an officer in the Prussian 
Guards, full of martial zeal, forced his way into the 
houses of known demagogues and attacked them, sword 
in hand. "It was very well meant," continued 
Bismarck, with dry humour, " but it was not exactly a 
suitable employment for a Prince." Disgusted at the 
weakness of the Government in dealing with the in- 
surrection, the Prince left the service, and from that 
date pursued the Government with hatred and contempt. 

192 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

% The changes wrought by Bismarck left the Prince's 
opinions unaltered — nay, years afterwards, he went so 
far as to denounce Bismarck to King William, asserting J 
that he was aiming at the King's life. " One day," con- * 
tinned the Chancellor, " my old master said to me, * Do 

you know, Bismarck, what Prince maintains ? 

You plot against my life. Well, that may be true, 
you would be the nearest ! ' 'If your Majesty,' said I, 
' will permit me, I would remind you that your valet 
and Aides-de-camp are just as near to you as I ; but I 
beg your Majesty will be always so gracious as to tell 
me candidly when I am denounced to you, so that I 
can defend and clear myself.' Then my old master 
laughed : ' Eeally, Bismarck, if I were to repeat every- 
thing that is brought forward against you, the year 
would not be long enough ! ' " 

Herr von Eynern thus describes the course of the 
conversation at a parliamentary dinner given by Prince 
Bismarck on February 22, 1889 : — 

" Politics of the day were hardly touched upon. The 
Prince made a few unflattering remarks about the 
questionable ability of the wordy professional politicians 
to direct affairs. Whilst touching upon the position of 
a monarch in the State, he praised a simple nature 
w^hich always steered straight for the right object, ' such 
as our Emperor possesses, that is the way to advance 
matters.* Here he alluded, by way of contrast, to his 
experiences in the year 1848, when Frederick William 
IV. allowed himself to be drawn hither and thither, and 
when it was possible to withdraw the troops from Berlin 
without the King's orders. Then the Chancellor referred 
to the critical time known as the ' Conflictszeit,' when 


Bismarck and his Master 193 

King William was very anxious, and he related the 
following story: 'When I was appointed Minister in 
1862, I drove to JUterbog to meet the King, and found 
him in a state of great depression. The Baden royalties, 
whom he had just left, considered the conflict with the 
Diet insoluble, and had besought him to retrace his 
steps. The King said to me, "You have become a 
Minister, but only in order to mount the scaffold 
which they are building for you on the Opera Place; 
I myself, as King, shall be the next to follow 

" ' The King doubtless hoped I should convince him 
that things were not so black,' said Bismarck; 'but 
I did the opposite, because I knew my man to be 
honourable and courageous in every danger. I told 
him that I did not consider either of these eventualities 
probable at present ; but after all, even if they should 
happen, did it matter so much ? We must all die some 
day, and it was of little importance whether it was a 
little earlier or later. I would die, as was my duty, 
in the service of my King and master, and the King 
would die in the defence of his holy rights, which was 
his duty towards himself and his people. It was 
not necessary to think at once of Louis XVI., who 
died an unpleasant death, whilst Charles I. suffered 
death most honourably, as honourably as on the 

" ' Whilst I,' continued Bismarck, ' thus appealed to 
the King as a soldier, he became more composed and 
sure of himself, so that I returned to Berlin with a 
determined man with his mind fully made up and 
ready for the fray.' " 

194 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

A few montlis later (May 20), Bismarck referred to 
tlie good services of Count Holnstein, wlio in 1870 not 
only provided the headquarters with good beer, but also 
was of great assistance in negotiating certain delicate 
affairs with Bavaria. 

" Count Holnstein was very useful to us in other 
matters : he carried on communications between us and 
King Louis, in which I could make no use of diplomacy. 
He stood close to the King's person — he was Master of the 
Horse — and I had to turn to him in order to be able to 
exert influence on the King himself. He travelled twice 
quam citissime from Paris to Munich, which was no 
small matter, for it happened at a time when some 
twenty German miles had to be traversed without a 

After confirming the statement of a deputy that the 
Bavarians had exercised great influence at Versailles, 
the Chancellor continued: "At first I had great 
difficulty in persuading my old master to accept 
the Imperial title; he was rather inclined to regard 
it as an ornamental incumbrance. 'As Emperor,' he 
said, ' I must do what others desire, as King I am 
the master; I was born a King and know what 
that means, but I do not know what I should be 
as Emperor.' He was like a young subaltern of 
ancient lineage, who would rather be called Count 
than Lieutenant." 

Bismarck then observed that he had written to King 
Louis to gain his support in the question, which was not 
only opposed by other sovereigns, but also by his old 
master. He mentioned that since he (Kling Louis) had 
already made so many concessions by joining the Bund, 

Bismarck and his Master 195 

there was little left for him to concede. As matters 
stood, by giving way he would be yielding to the King 
of Prussia, who in the future would, to a certain 
extent, have the power of issuing orders to Bavaria; 
it would therefore be more correct to make a concession 
to the 'King of Prussia than to the German Emperor. 
Bismarck reminded King Louis of the German Emperors 
who had come from the House of Bavaria, and especially 
of Louis the Bavarian — very much ad hominem — and 
also that he (Bismarck) knew from his own family history 
that Louis the Bavarian had been a well-wisher to the 

The letter was written at the dining-table of the 
hotel, and on that account was not quite correct in its 
form. The paper was of an inferior kind, and the 
writing showed through on the other side; in this 
condition it was handed to Count Holnstein. 

On the arrival of the latter. King Louis was suffering 
from toothache, and at first refused to see him. The 
Count sent in word that he had a letter from Bismarck. 
King Louis then let him come in, and after reading the 
letter, had it read aloud a second and a third time. He 
then remarked, " Yes, it is true ! The King of Prussia 
must become German Emperor." King Louis then de- 
manded from Bismarck a draft of the letter to be sent 
to the King William. Bismarck sent the draft, which 
was approved of by King Louis and forwarded to the 
King of Prussia. 

At Friedrichsruh (February 24, 1895) mention was 
made of a saying of Schleiermacher that princes who 
wish to achieve much must have a "phlegmatic 
temperament." The Prince, after a thoughtful pause, 

196 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

remarked with a sigh that that was entirely true of 
his late master, William I., who in certain respects was 
phlegmatic. It was often very difficult to convince him 
or to bring him to a decision, but when he had made up 
his mind, "houses might have been built on him." 
"He had inherited a childlike temperament from his 
mother, Queen Louise, which he preserved pure as gold 
to the very last. Lucidity and placidity maintained 
a most beautiful, harmonious balance in the Emperor's 
mind and temper ; with him truth stood above every- 
thing. During my diplomatic career I have always 
sought after truth, but sometimes we were both forced 
by circumstances to depart publicly a little from 
the straight line. This was always hard for the old 
Emperor ; he would flush up, and — I could not look at 
him, so had to turn quickly aside. My old , master 
knew much happiness and also much sorrow. What 
did he not suffer during the 'Conflict Zeit'?" [1862- 

" And your Highness too," interrupted a voice. 

" I," replied the Prince, " I was there for that purpose ; 
but my good master — he felt it bitterly." 

The following letter to Lieutenant - General von 
Quistorp contains a refutation of the assertions made 
by Colonel von Lettow Vorbeck in his " History of the 
War of 1866," that the King, acting on the advice of 
Prince Bismarck, had issued orders forbidding the 
Prussian cavalry 'to pursue after the battle of Konig- 
gratz : — 

Bismarck and his Master 197 

" Varzin, July 27, 1894. 

"Your Excellency, 

" I thank you most sincerely for your friendly 
letter of the 24th, and am prepared to answer your 
question so far as my memory will sufl&ce. 

"On the day of the battle of Koniggratz I ac- 
companied the late King from the time he was greeted 
by the sharpshooters of the Guard at Langenhof, and 
I did not leave the immediate vicinity of his person 
again that day. I did not notice, nor do I believe, that 
Prince Albrecht spoke to the King about the employ- 
ment of the cavalry during this time ; I am certain that 
the King did not exchange a single word with me on 
this subject, and in any case not in consequence of 
any remark made by Prince Albrecht, which I must 
have heard. Had the matter been mentioned to me, I 
should have strongly advocated the pursuit; but my 
sole task was to get the King out of the shell-fire, 
which, so far, the Aides-de-camp and doctors had vainly 
attempted to do. The King did not utter a single 
word either to me or in my presence about breaking off 
the action or the pursuit of the defeated enemy ; it was 
not my duty to interfere of my own initiative with 
advice or remarks on the direction of the battle. Nor 
do I believe that the King said that Austria must 
not be driven to extremes. I had trouble enough at 
Nikolsburg to persuade my illustrious master that we 
must deal gently with the Austrians; but on July 3 
it lay far from my thoughts to give expression to this 
politically correct idea, and least of all to the King. 
During the hours in question it was not possible 
to ascertain how great a victory had been achieved. 

198 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Even on the evening of July 3 I did not consider the 
campaign ended by what had taken place, and I would 
not have had any military measures neglected to bring the 
war to a conclusion without the interference of France. 
I did not notice that the King gave anybody whatso- 
ever an order which might be construed as showing his 
desire to break off the action. The King in my com- 
pany met the 6th Cuirassiers and the 26th Infantry 
Eegiment, which, with a rifle battalion, whose ranks 
were being effectively shelled, stood nearest to the 
Austrian artillery fire as far as I could make out. 
Shortly afterwards I was surprised to see the Cuirassiers 
turn about and ride back to their bivouac. I rode up 
to Colonel von Eauch, commanding the Brandenburg 
Cuirassiers, and asked him the meaning of this move- 
ment. He said that orders for the retreat had been 
given, and mentioned the number of men and horses 
he had lost by the artillery fire. I replied, 'I have 
observed, with regret, your losses in your immediate 
neighbourhood, and I thought you would now ride 
forward to see where the shells came from.' He 
then informed me that the horses had had nothing 
to eat since 4 a.m., and were much fatigued ; moreover, 
he could do nothing except what he was ordered to do. 
The 'Halt!' had been sounded, and he had received 
orders to return and bivouac. I saw the 6th and other 
Cuirassier regiments march past to the rear, and had 
the private feeling that we had carried our manoeuvre 
customs to the battlefield, by which ' Cease fire ' is 
sounded as soon as the field day has reached the ap- 
pointed stage. I was surprised by the order for the 
retirement of the cavalry, and do not know who issued 

Bismarck and his Master 199 

it ; if it had been issued by the King direct I must have 
heard of it, as I was not more than a horse's length 
away from him during all this time. I can only say 
that what I observed surprised and deeply affected me. 
" Mindful of our mutual experiences, 

" I remain, Your Excellency, 
" Most sincerely, 

"V. Bismarck." 

Though some authorities have asserted at times that 
Bismarck intended to build a golden bridge for the 
beaten enemy on the field of Koniggratz, it is not 
correct. The idea, however, which lent probability to 
the statement was one which Bismarck had formulated 
long ago in the old Frankfort days, and had discussed 
in all its details with his royal master. If Bismarck 
said, " The only question now is to regain our old 
friendship with Eussia," after Moltke had told the 
King of his conviction that the resistance of the 
Austrian Army was broken, this was not said because 
he considered such an admonition necessary on account 
of his anxiety lest the King in the triumph of victory 
should change his mind, but for very different reasons. 

" The King was so shaken, so deeply moved in his 
extremely noble and gentle nature, that whilst others 
were not able to suppress their victorious joy, he was 
sad and depressed at the thought of how heavily the 
defeat must fall on Austria and the Emperor Francis 
Joseph, the loss of the hegemony of Germany rather 
than the loss of the battle as such. 

" This feeling I wished to lessen, and therefore 

200 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

reminded him that Austria would raise herself again 
at our hands." 

It was once mentioned to Bismarck, that the old 
Emperor was represented to have been completely under 
the influence of his Chancellor — a mere puppet, so to 
speak, in his hands. 

" Nothing," rejoined Bismarck with warmth, " is more 
incorrect than this belief and representation. William I. 
was anything but an ' easy-going ' master. He was 
uncommonly tenacious of his opinions, traditions, pre- 
judices, and it was always a tough piece of work to 
convince him of the necessity of taking a new departure. 
How many times have I been to him in the expectation 
of returning with his consent and signature, and have 
come away disappointed. And more than once a long 
consultation, at which I, with the best of intentions, 
could advance no further, ended with these words from 
the King : * Now you have convinced me, and I believe 
you are right ; but leave me another day or two to 
reflect further and think over the matter. I should 
like to protect myself against even the possibility of 
hastiness.' But if my dead master was not 'easy- 
going,' if he was not easy to convince, he possessed 
one quality which stands above all others: he was 
truthful down to the most minute detail. I always 
knew how I stood with him; if he declared himself 
convinced, he really was ; and when he had given his 
consent to a measure, he did not hesitate another 
moment in executing it, for no power could have after- 
wards changed or made him waver. Never in his life 
did he leave me in the lurch ; in this respect he was 
truly a knight and a hero." 

Bismarck and his Master 201 

In reply to an observation that his opportunities 
of discussing difficult questions with reigning sove- 
reigns must have facilitated his tasks, Bismarck 
replied — 

" That does not apply without limitations, and as a 
diplomat I would rather enlarge the scope and say that 
negotiations with leading statesmen are preferable to 
those with reigning sovereigns. If, for instance, a 
minister comes to me with some historical or documen- 
tary error, I can, if I am acquainted with the real facts, 
say to him without more ado, * My colleague, you are 
in error here ; your memory has left you in the lurch 
this time; the affair stands thus.' But when a king 
maintains some erroneous statement, and even assures 
me that he was present on the occasion, or that he had 
promised his father on his death-bed never to concede 
this or that, I am placed in check and must withdraw 
my piece, although I know that my opponent has made 
a false move." 

The Prince then related two humorous and drastic 
instances, in which negotiations with crowned heads 
had fallen through, because they had sought to put him 
in the wrong by false promises. 

" Of course," he added, " they did not do so against 
their better knowledge ; but kings are so accustomed to 
see everything they say accepted as incontrovertible 
truth that they easily fall into the danger of thinking 
that they have really done that which they wisely ought 
to have done." 

Bismarck at first was in lively opposition to Prince 
William — who in later years was to be his " old master " 
— when the Imperial dignity was offered to Frederick 

202 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

William TV. Prince William urged his brother to 
accept the offered crown, which the latter very nearly 
did ; whilst, as Bismarck later on related, " I used 
the little influence I then possessed to create a feeling 
against the project. I had to bring forward considera- 
tions for Austria, which were by no means decisive for 
me. I did not want the thing, for such a crown is only 
secure when one has placed it on one's head one's self. 
What would the situation of a German Emperor have 
been, if, at the first conflict with Parliament, some re- 
presentative from Krahwinkel and the neighbourhood 
had said to him, ' We have given you the crown ; now 
be decently grateful and polite ! ' And even if one had 
been inclined to put up with such like, the affair would 
not have been successful, because with a new Germany 
— a mere quicksand ! — Prussia would have slipped out 
of our fingers." 

The idea of King William's abdication (1862) was 
due to the opposition which his favourite project, the 
reform of the Prussian military system, encountered 
from the representatives of the nation, who either did 
not know, or purposely misunderstood, his intentions. 
The catch-word "militarism" dominated the situation 
in the Landtag. On assuming the Eegency he had 
adopted, as his object, the idea that Prussia must make 
moral conquests in Germany ; but he never laid aside 
the idea that a strong army was, above all, essential for 
Germany. This 'was in accordance with what he wrote 
to General von Natzmer in 1849 : " He who wishes to 
rule Germany, must conquer it ; it cannot be managed 
a la Gagern." Another method he did not find, and 
could not find, because there is no other method. And 

Bismarck and his Master 203 

thus an apparently unsurmountable barricade blocked 
his way. 

Bismarck thus described the situation : " The King 
did not know of any other way out of it. His con- 
science rebelled against the conflict; magnanimous as 
he was to the last degree, he preferred to sacrifice him- 
self. On my going to him at Babelsberg, his abdication 
lay on the table. He was tired, and I had the greatest 
difficulty in convincing him that his abdication would 
rather aggravate than ameliorate the situation, as indeed 
it would have done. The coach was in a ditch ; not by 
his fault, but by that of the ministers of the last few 
years. Every one was ready with advice, especially the 
quacks who wanted to effect a cure with camomile tea 
when nothing but an operation would do any good." 

About this date Bismarck was in the Pyrenees, from 
whence he was summoned to Berlin by a telegram from 
Eoon. " I will not keep out of the way," he replied, " for 
I will not be guilty of cowardice." But at the same 
time he wrote to his wife, "There must be a decision 
now, or, come what may, I shall resign." 

The conversation between King William and Bis- 
marck on the 20th of September, 1862, became the 
turning point of the history of Prussia and Germany — 
nay, of the whole world. 

"Up to that date," said Bismarck, "we had not 
quite understood each other. I had thought the King 
to be more undecided than he was in reality, and he 
considered me — well, somewhat of a political rowdy; 
but a quarter of an hour sufficed to convince us that we 
were both in the wrong. I do not know how it 
happened ; I suddenly felt complete confidence in him 

204 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

and he in me. Previous to the interview I had care- 
fully written out the only conditions under which I 
would take the reins into my hands, but I did not take 
the paper from my pocket, and on reaching home the 
first thing that I did was to tear it up. 

" But you should have seen the change in the whole 
being of the King. As I entered he seemed so aged and 
broken, that my heart warmed to him and my eyes 
perhaps also, I do not exactly remember now — but I" 
realized that what the man wanted was for the best 1 
Nor do I remember exactly what I really said to 
him; whatever it was, it came from my heart, and 
he drew himself up and became so stately and erect 
that it was a pleasure to see him, a King again in very 
truth. From that moment I was his, body and soul." 

The implicit trust and confidence with which the 
Emperor William inspired his Chancellor alone enabled 
the latter to cope with the ever-increasing burden of 
work and cares with which he was at times over- 

Shortly after Bismarck had begged the Emperor (at 
the end of March, 1884) to allow him to resign the 
direction of German domestic affairs, he explained his 
position as follows to a member of the Eeichstag : — 

" I am seventy years old, my nerves are out of order, 
and I have not time to nurse myself. How can I think 
about injured feelings and little particularist jealousies 
when it is my duty to watch the course of affairs every- 
where? Telegraphy has multiplied my work in the 
Imperial Chancellerie to a terrible extent. Germany is 
interested in whatever happens at Rome, Madrid, 
Vienna, Pesth, Petersburg, Paris, London, New York, 

Bismarck and his Master 205 

Washington, Hue, Tamatave, Melbourne, Sydney, Cairo, 
and Khartoum. I must look upon the world as a chess- 
board, and see how an event anywhere can affect 
German interests directly or indirectly. Formerly a 
Chancellor only needed to be conversant with the lead- 
ing personalities at the European Courts, whereas now 
he must be acquainted with the parties, wirepullers, 
financiers, and the tendencies of public opinion, and act 
quickly on information despatched in haste and received 
by telegraph. In order to be able to generalize quickly, 
his eye should be everywhere, and his knowledge very 
extensive and exact. The position of Chancellor is no 
sinecure, and the duties might well overtax the powers 
of a younger man. If the Emperor did not support me 
in everything, I should not be able to get through with 
my work." 

One day when a guest was rather slow in drinking 
champagne (Moet et Chandon, White Star), Bismarck 
pointed to the half-empty bottle and said, " We must 
finish it. Never in my life have I allowed a cham- 
pagne bottle to quit my table otherwise than empty. 
My old master was very different. When he was 
alone at meals he always had a half-bottle of Bordeaux 
and a half-bottle of champagne standing in front of him. 
He generally finished the Bordeaux, but only rarely 
the champagne ; the remainder he used to lock up him- 
self for use the following day. He was one of the old 
school who never drank iced champagne, but allowed the 
cork to fly out with a bang." In spite of such little 
traits of exactness and economy, the old Emperor was 
by no means miserly, but was a " generous and aristo- 
cratic gentleman." It was also true of him that only 

2o6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

with difficulty could he bear to part with tried advisers 
and servants : this also applied to time-honoured articles 
of daily use, especially as regards his coats and trousers. 
At times no small amount of ingenuity was required on 
the part of his attendants to smuggle some new garment 
into the Emperor's toilette without his noticing it, to 
replace some cherished but wholly unserviceable article. « 
If he noticed the change, an outburst of temper followed I 
at once, and the intervention of the Empress was 
necessary before he could be brought to wear the re- 
jected garment. "I can sympathize with him, for I 
too am much attached to what is old and accustomed. 
If a house on one of my estates becomes ruined, I do not 
have it torn down at once, but prefer to build another 
one close to it. My employes and servants are to me I 
like those of the old Emperor. I part unwillingly with ' 
my people, and rather put up with all kinds of irregu- 
larities, often very bad ones, than make a change and i 
accustom myself to new faces. I receive many an un- * 
pleasant impression of this or that one, many a report 
or accusation which do not please me, yet I think it 
over well before I dismiss him and take a new man in 
his place. To my recollection I have never really given 
any one notice or dismissed him except for disobedience ; 
in that case he has to go." The desire to retain old 
employes and old servants as long as possible was more- 
over a peculiarity of the Bismarck family. At the time 
Bismarck took -over the Schonhausen estate, he found 
men there who were serving in the castle for the third 
generation. A farm superintendent had been sixty years 
in the service of the family. His own father had brought 
back from the Eheingau after the campaign of 1792 a 

Bismarck arid his Master 207 

huntsman named Jode, who was kept on a long time, 
and then given the inn in the village of Schonhausen. 
This Jode was the first to take him (the Prince) out 
shooting, and he still remembered him quite well. The 
old huntsman possessed to a high degree the peculiarity 
of old servants who consider themselves to be quite on 
a confidential footing with their master. This one re- 
peatedly boasted to him, " Your father and I, we shall 
get soaked and dry again out here in the summer." 
" To this day I still pay a pension to a steward who 
served our family for more than fifty years — they are 
the old relations. To-day it is different ; railways and 
the modern trend of the country population towards 
large towns have done away with all that." 




It was some time before Prince William of Prussia 
and Bismarck understood each other. Their differences, 
however, did not rest on want of personal sympathy, 
but on real difference of opinion. Prince William was 
at first very accessible to English influence — later on 
to Eussian — whilst Bismarck was opposed to both. 
Even when the Prince was appointed Eegent in 1858, 
he was more inclined to Boon and Moltke, because his 
mind, chiefly devoted to military matters, quickly 
realized their worth, than to Bismarck, whom he sent to 
Petersburg as Ambassador. Meanwhile, the idea of en- 
trusting Bismarck with the post of a leading minister 
came as early as 1860. Bismarck then wrote to his 
elder brother Bernhard, " Were I to go readily into the 
galley, I should be an ambitious fool; every great 
embassy, even that of Petersburg, which, apart from 
climate, is the pleasantest of them all, is a paradise 
in comparison to the slavery of a minister's work of to- 
day, especially that of the Exterior. But if a pistol is 
held at my head with yes or no, I have a feeling 
that to say no under the existing really difficult and 

Bismarck on Politics 209 

responsible circumstances, would be to commit a 
cowardly action. 

" In short, I am honourably doing all I can to keep to 
St. Petersburg unmolested, even to watch from there 
the development of affairs with resignation ; but, never- 
theless, if a ministerial mount is brought round for me, 
anxiety about the condition of his legs will not prevent 
me from riding." 

Whilst every other German politician in 1856 was 
debating as to whether it would be more advantageous 
for Germany to lean on the Western Powers — the 
chief representative of this view being Prince William 
of Prussia — or on Eussia — the policy of Frederick 
William IV., and the Kreuzzeitung party — Bismarck 
was already raising the banner of a new Prussian- 
German policy. The necessity of this departure was 
demonstrated by a report of Bismarck's to Manteuffel, 
dated the 26th of April, 1856, which, perhaps, shows 
more clearly than any other document the extent and 
correctness of Bismarck's insight into the future. 

In this report he contends that an alliance between 
Russia and France may certainly be expected in the 
future, for, since the collapse of the Holy Alliance, 
these two nations are no longer separated by any diver- 
gent principles, but are rather thrown into each other's 
arms by many circumstances. Germany, therefore, has 
the more reason to take the solution of the German 
question into consideration. The sooner this be done, 
the sooner the two German Powers could hold their 
own against the East and West. "According to the 
Viennese policy," the report continues, " Germany is 
too small for us two. German dualism, during the 


210 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

last 600 years, and notably since Charles V., has 
always settled its internal relations by a thorough-going 
domestic war. And even in this century no remedy 
but this one will be able to set the clock of develop- 
ment at the right hour."' 

In after-years Bismarck has often been reproached 
that he was, politically speaking, " living from hand to 
mouth," and that he had only aimed at and seized the 
object nearest to hand. True it is that he grasped what 
was nearest, as every practical politician does and must 
do, but only when this led towards the remote object 
which he never lost sight of. It is the chief merit 
of Bismarck's foreign policy that he always realized 
correctly and consistently pursued his objective and the 
road leading to it, in the main essentials, though not in 
every detail, for that is impossible. "I do not even 
bear a grudge," he remarked (perhaps referring to an 
observation of Albert Trager's that the unity of Ger- 
many had fallen into his lap like a ripe fruit), " to those 
who, in looking backwards, see everything lying in 
beautiful order before them, and think that all hap- 
pened as it did because it was bound to. When a ship 
gets into port safely, only those who have been on 
board can tell of the storms she has passed through. 
Certainly those who have whistled to invoke the storm 
may also know something about it. But things like 
these are easily forgotten." 

Later on, ill discussing the obstinate resistance 
offered to his policy by those who would not, could not, 
be convinced of its soundness until the thunder of the 
victorious Prussian guns at Koniggratz drowned their 
voices, the Chancellor remarked — 

Bismarck on Politics 2 1 1 

" There again you have an excellent proof that success 
is the only criterion for the great multitude of average 
people. Since things turned out well for us, every- 
one acclaims me with applause ; had the contrary been 
the case, they would have stoned me, or rather my 
memory, for I should never have returned alive. I 
would have entered a Prussian regiment and got myself 
shot. And yet even then no blame ought really to 
have been fastened on to me, since in military matters 
I had to rely on Eoon and Moltke. But of course I 
should have been the scapegoat ! " 

Bismarck was transferred from St. Petersburg to the 
Paris Embassy in May, 1862. Whereas the representa- 
tives of the Powers almost grovelled in the dust before 
Napoleon III., Bismarck held his head upright. On 
one occasion the Emperor proposed a close understand- 
ing with Prussia, whereby the latter was to annex 
Hanover and Schleswig-Holstein, whilst France was to 
be compensated at the expense of Belgium and Luxem- 
burg. Bismarck replied that he was glad to be the one 
to receive this communication, since he was perhaps 
the only diplomat who would take the personal res- 
ponsibility of concealing it from his Sovereign ! 

Bismarck repeatedly referred to Napoleon's per- 
sonal amiability towards him. " Once he became quite 
oriental; he confided to me that he wished to find 
me a mistress, and seemed to disbelieve me when I 
told him that I neither required nor desired one. He 
was not able to grasp the idea of German family life. 
The Empress certainly could not give him any real 
impression of the family. She could be extremely 
amiable, nevertheless, and when she made use of this 

212 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

faculty towards me I always felt that I had to be 
doubly on the qui vive." 

" Nothing is so stupid," remarked the Chancellor one 
day, " that it cannot find supporters, if it is only brought 
forward with the necessary aplomb." Then, referring to 
the Schleswig-Holstein affair, he said, " Considered from 
the diplomatic point of view, that was a nut on which 
one might easily have broken one's teeth. I had no 
anxiety about the Danes, since it was to be taken for 
granted that they would commit a folly; and it was 
only necessary to create a favourable situation up till 
that should take place. 

" Austria had to be made to understand that she would 
forfeit all sympathy if she did not go along with us. The 
gratitude of Eussia for the service which w^e had rendered 
her when Austria wished to mobilize Germany, had to 
be re-awakened ; and England had to be isolated, so that 
she might restrict herself to threats, as she always does 
- when no one will fetch the chestnuts out of the fire for 
her. Each single act was in itself a trifle, but the diffi- 
culty lay in getting them all to fit in together. Our 
parliamentarians demanded of me that I should explain 
the motives of my policy to them. If at that time I 
had only told them a portion of what I am saying now, 
I should have made the whole affair impossible from 
the very beginning." 

As a matt,er of fact, the successes of 1864 did 
not diminish the want of confidence with which 
German politicians, or rather the majority, regarded 

Whilst the diplomatic difficulties which Bismarck 
had to encounter before Koniggratz could be brought 

Bismarck on Politics 213 

about, were certainly not inconsiderable, they were 
almost surpassed by those evoked by the new situation 
afterwards. Napoleon's energies were galvanized into 
feverish activity in order to obtain advantages from the ' 
Prussian victories. He intrigued with both combatants. 
Austria was to regain her lost Italian possessions in 
return for the left bank of the Ehine ; whilst Prussia . 
at the same price might annex the whole of North 
Germany and found a new German union. Bene- 
detti, who acted as intermediary, was, under no circum- 
stances, to depart from these conditions. Bismarck, 
however, retorted with the threat to conclude peace 
with Austria at once, and to reconquer Alsace with the 
armies of both States. " Both our armies are ready ; 
yours is not. You yourself can imagine the conse- 
quences ! Draw the attention of his Majesty the 
Emperor to the fact that such a war might, under 
certain circumstances, become a war with revolutionary 
thunderclaps ! " 

" This was a jet of cold water," observed Bismarck, 
in relating this incident, " which did not fail to effect 
its object. But one had to be prepared for anything 
with Napoleon, for already at that time he felt his 
throne trembling, and would willingly have glued a 
pair of nice new legs on to it, in the shape of the left 
bank of the Ehine — Belgium and Luxemburg. This 
was the cause of the rapid progress of the peace negoti- 
ations with Austria. No man could know how long I 
should be successful in my dilatory treatment of the 
negotiation with France. Napoleon's foolishness in 
placing his demands in writing in our hands was cer- 
tainly an unexpected gain." 

214 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Yet Napoleon's intervention had achieved some 
tangible result, for even at that date Bismarck would 
have liked to create a stronger tie between North and 
South Germany. But time was lacking for the com- 
pletion of the tedious negotiations which would have 
been necessary to effect that object. 

" With a few of the Southern States it would have 
been successful, and I was certain of Bavaria in par- 
ticular. But it behoved us to do .all or nothing — no 
patchwork. It was also difficult for me to keep his 
Majesty the King away from those who wished to com- 
mit him to annexations in South Germany. I am 
otherwise not exactly an enemy to annexation whenever 
necessary," the Chancellor remarked, with a hearty 
laugh ; " but in this case I fought against it tooth and 
nail. If ever I was right, it was in doing this. We 
should never have been able to build a bridge over the 
Maine if we had crossed it in 1866 provided with pots of 
black and white * paint." 

Before the commencement of the war of 1866, Bis- 
marck had left no stone untui^ned to allay the " Con- 
stitutional Conflict " by German parliamentarians with 
the leading agreement, but without success. On the 
conclusion of that glorious campaign the Chancellor 
used his utmost endeavours to overcome the determined 
opposition of the King to the Bill of Indemnity with 
which Bismarck proposed to come to an understanding 
with the representatives of the people. 

" I was never quite able to convince the King, who, 
with all his honest affection for Prussia and afterwards 
for Germany, invariably felt himself to be the ruler 
* The national colours of Prussia, 

Bismarck on Politics 215 

throughout, that we should not compromise ourselves 
with the Indemnity project. We were the victors, and 
victors can afford to be magnanimous. ... It would 
not have been so difficult for me then, had not little- 
minded men commenced their night manoeuvres in the 
belief that I with my policy had only broken in the 
steed so that they might seat themselves in the saddle. 

" The Moor, they thought, had done his work, and if 
it had been true he would willingly have gone then. 
But it was not true, for half the work still remained 
to be done." 

Bismarck once designated the seventy-five supporters 
of Virchow who voted against the two hundred and 
thirty members when the Indemnity Bill was passed, 
as men who would one day make a great to-do in 
heaven " if the resurrection did not take place in exact 
accordance to their programme." Whilst he was hence- 
forth able to count on the approval of the bulk of the 
nation in after-years, he had to encounter a backstair 
influence, to the intrigues of which he owes many an 
anxious hour. In the eyes of some of his former sup- 
porters he had become too great and too liberal, and to 
them this was a crime which merited death. 

"The men with ideas worthy of the lumber-room 
then began to band themselves together, and in seeking 
soon found a high protectress. Then commenced the 
mole's work. The General who wished to be a diplomat 

and who effected as little in that capacity as , the 

higher lackeys (the Court Marshals) blinded by their 
aiguillettes, and also a few hysterical women who 
imagined that a Hohenzoller would allow himself to be 
degraded to the level of a Louis XIV. — a nice company 

2i6 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

was soon collected ! I had only one friend at Court — 
tlie King — but he was worth a thousand others." 

" And Moltke and Eoon ? " 

" I will not insult them by reckoning them amongst 
the courtiers ! " was the cutting retort. 

After the effect of the Exhibition of 1867 had worn 
off, the Luxemburg question threatened to offer Napoleon 
a welcome occasion for a war. Certain of victory, 
and convinced that war was inevitable, Moltke was in 
favour of fighting at once. But Bismarck held back 
and abandoned the right of Prussia to garrison the 
fortress of Luxemburg. 

" I still rebelled against recognizing the unconditional 
necessity of this war, which must make so many 
thousand widows and orphans and create such un- 
speakable misery. We had only just witnessed 1866, 
and in comparison with that which awaited the world, 
1866 would dwindle to a pale shadow. Napoleon's 
throne creaked in every joint : incalculable events might 
happen. . . . There was also another matter : 1866 was 
still too fresh in the memory of the Southern States ; the 
enthusiasm which we evoked in 1870 would not have 
prevailed then. . . . The decision was not an easy one, 
for something else had to be considered : the question 
of right ! I did not want a war which would enable 
others later on to reproach us with having entered upon 
it wdckedly. Justice had to be on our side beyond 
every doubt, so that no factory-made falsification of 
history could take it from us." 

" I should answer the question as to whether 
Napoleon desired the war, with * No,' " said Bismarck, 
shortly after the battle of Sedan. " His object was that 

Bismarck on Politics 217 

of self-preservation, the maintenance of his dynasty, by 
a brilliant success such as he would have gained had 
the King, threatened by him, made the Hohenzollern 
candidature impossible for ever. But in order to attain 
that, he had to throw more into the scales than his own 
will: he had to threaten with the warlike desires of 
the whole French nation ; and it was quite in accordance 
with his character that he should also be able to use this 
as a shield if matters turned out badly, as happened 
later on. All the official papers and little journals then 
kept up the cannonade until the sound common sense of 
the French fell to pieces and the GalKc cock crowed, 
" A Berlin ! " When that happened, Napoleon's experi- 
ence was the same as that of the sorcerer's apprentice : 
* Those spirits whom I summoned, I cannot now get 
rid of!' Whether he still wished to back out of it 
may be doubted, but that he could not do so is certain ! 
That he should have allowed matters to go so far 
was his great fault, and it was on the tip of my 
tongue at Donchery, when he wished to shift all the 
blame off himself: only I did not say it because he 
made me feel pitiful, being so broken and ill and full of 
fear of his own soldiers." 

" To-day ... we were arguing at table as to whether 
it was a Cabinet or a national war. Both sides were 
right and both were wrong. It began as a Cabinet war, 
and it became a national war. Napoleon wished it ; he 
fanned the sparks of national jealousy until the French 
nation wanted the war, and the Germans too, when 
they saw that their honour could be preserved in no 
other way. In the end the Cabinets only did what 
could no longer be avoided. . . . But observe how, now 

2i8 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

that Napoleon has quitted the scene, the French will 
make him the scapegoat for everything, even for their 
want of independence and their vanity, without which 
matters would never have gone so far." 

Two years after the commencement of the " Kultur- 
Kampf " Bismarck observed — 

" The best preparatory school for a Chancellor of the 
German Empire now would be a circus training under 
a juggler ; Conservatives, Liberals, Centre — one of these 
must always be in the air, but only so high that one 
can catch him again, and whilst doing so the two others 
must not be allowed to fall. . . . The threads on the 
spinning-wheel of our domestic policy were never so 
tangled as they now are. It would be difficult enough 
to get done with only one task. But in addition to the 
Kultur-Kampf, social legislation, the protection of our 
agriculture and industries, and the increase of our Army 
are to be carried through, quite apart from a multitude 
of minor tasks — -sometimes things really seem to turn 
round in one's head like a windmill. And it is just 
at this time that I should like to be quite free to deal 
with foreign policy. Gortschakoff gives me more trouble 
than I care to own; I would not like to disquiet 
our Imperial master, who is so attached to Eussia. The 
old fellow on the Neva is jealous, nothing more, but 
that is more than enough. Clouds everywhere, and not 
a speck of blue sky to be seen at all ! " 

The course followed by the foreign policy of the 
European Courts was indeed well calculated to cause 
anxiety. The Eastern Question again threatened to 
become the tinder ready for a European conflagration. 
And though the Berlin Conference of 1878 produced 

Bismarck on Politics 219 

a calming effect, the danger still remained, for Bismarck 
attached no great value to the outward brilliance which 
this Conference shed on Germany. 

" It is very nice," he remarked, " that these gentle- 
men have come to us, and our Imperial master was 
almost as pleased about it as Werner (who painted the 
Conference picture) ; but the fact that I was only 
allowed to be 'the honest broker' — whilst I would 
rather have sided with Eussia had I been permitted 
to follow my personal inclinations — has cleared, though 
not improved, the situation. Eussia will not forget our 
action, and Austria and England will not thank us for 
it. There was no other way out of it. I fear the time 
will not be long in coming when the Eussian bear will 
allow Madame la Eepublique to scratch his hide, even 
though she wears a Jacobin cap on her head. The 
only consolation is that a mariage de convenance at the 
most can arise between Eussian Absolutism and French 
Eadicalism and Opportunism, but never a marriage of 
inclination — and a mariage de convenance seldom bears 
any fruit." 

To oppose the threatened danger, Bismarck sought 
and found a counterweight in the creation of the Triple 
Alliance, his last great feat in the arena of foreign 
policy. Even whilst Beust was Prime Minister of 
Austria, Bismarck had taken preliminary steps for the 
necessary understanding, but it was not until Andrassy 
had succeeded to the direction of Austrian affairs that 
the necessary advances were made. To make the acces- 
sion of Italy in 1883 palatable to Austria was yet 
another difficult task. 

" There were still at the Austrian Court," exclaimed 

2 20 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Bismarck, angrily, when the negotiations on this point 
once threatened to fail, " far too many people who have 
learnt nothing and forgotten nothing since 1866. Those 
whom God wishes to destroy, He afflicts with madness. 
This Empire, of which one might say as of the late 
Holy Eoman Empire, 'How does it manage to hold 
together ? ' ought to thank God that it gains a powerful 
ally; instead of which these politicians in petticoats 
shudder like children taking medicine. If they are 
bent upon our watching their destruction by their 
Slavonic neighbour with grounded weapons, they can 
have it ! Then they will clamour indeed, but it will 
be too late ! " Fortunately, the energy of Andrassy and 
his successors succeeded in breaking the opposition to 
the alliance with Germany and Italy. 

Varzin, October 19, 1877 
(Conversation with Moritz Busch) 

"The King wished to give me the arms of Alsace 
and Lorraine on making me a Prince. But I would 
rather have had those of Schleswig-Holstein, for that 
is the diplomatic campaign with which I am most 

" Did you contemplate its possibilities from the 
start ? " 

"Yes; immediately on the death of the King of 
Denmark. But it was difficult. Every one was against 
me ; the Crown Prince and Princess on account of family 
relationship, His Most Gracious Majesty himself at first 
and for a long time afterwards, then Austria, the minor 

Bismarck on Politics 221 

German States, and the English, who begrudged us the 
possession of the Elbe duchies. We succeeded in gain- 
ing over Napoleon, who thought to place us under 
an obligation. Last of all the Liberals at home, who 
for once attached importance to the rights of a prince? 
were opposed to us. It was, however, only their envy 
and hatred towards me. Even the Schleswig-Hol- 
steiners did not wish it ; all these, and I do not know 
who else ! We had a sitting of the Council of State at that 
time, when I made one of the longest speeches that 
I ever fired off, and said much that must have appeared 
unheard of and impossible to my audience. For in- 
stance, I represented to the King that all his pre- 
decessors, with the exception of his late brother, had 
added something to the realm ; did he intend to keep 
to that ? To judge by their astonished looks, they 
clearly thought I had been lunching too well. Coste- 
noble was in charge of the protocol, and on looking 
at that document later on, I found that just the very 
passages in which I had been most clear and urgent 
had been omitted. I called his attention to the fact, 
and complained. He acknowledged that I was right, 
but thought that I would be pleased if they were left 
out. I replied, 'Most certainly not. You thought, 
no doubt, ich hdtte einen gepfiffen. But I insist on their 
being inserted just as I said them.' " 

The characteristic features of race, and their influence 
on the political life of different countries, were at all 
times favourite topics of conversation with the great 

222 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

In conversation one evening (April 30, 1868) with 
the celebrated jurist Bluntschli, Bismarck observed — 

" It will perhaps appear fantastic to you if I maintain 
that nations bear a resemblance to Nature: some are 
masculine, others are feminine (not a new idea of mine). 
The Germans are men; so much so that, taken by 
themselves, they are ungovernable. Every one wants 
his own peculiarity. But when they are united they 
are like a torrent which irresistibly carries everything 
away before it. The Slavs and Celts are feminine : 
they do nothing by themselves — they are incapable 
of reproduction. The Eussians can do nothing 
without the Germans. They cannot work, but they are 
easily led. They have no powers of resistance, they 
follow their master. The Celts, too, are nothing but a 
passive mass. Only where the German influence comes 
in does a political nation arise by combination — like the 
English ; so also with regard to the Spaniards, as long as 
the Goths were in power, and the French, whilst guided 
by the Eranconian element. The Erench Eevolution 
expelled the latter, and gave predominance to the Celtic. 
That makes them inclined to submit to authority. The 
Westphalians and Suabians are old Germans with but 
little admixture, and therefore hard to amalgamate with 
the State. If they are seized with a national idea, and if 
they become excited, they will break the very rocks. But 
that rarely happens. As a rule, every village and every 
peasant wants to exist individually. There is a powerful 
combination of the Slavonic and Teuton elements in 
the Prussians ; that is one of the chief reasons of their 
political usefulness. They possess something of the 
pliability of the Slavs and the virility of the Germans." 

Bismarck on Politics 223 

Nearly thirty years afterwards Bismarck again re- 
ferred as follows to his theory on the value of Teuton 
blood on the progress of nations : — 

" I find that the life of nations is only crowned with 
success so far as they have Teuton blood in their veins, 
and so long as they preserve the characteristics of that 
race. The Irish are an effeminate race, who act with 
much feeling but with little understanding. I can 
understand in the end all nations and races, but I 
cannot conquer my aversion to negroes. They appear 
to me to be a caricature of the white man. The United 
States, who possess a large share of this race, inspires 
me therefore with the more interest. If social demo- 
cracy plays no important rdle in that country — it has 
really appeared only in the large towns, and has been 
repressed with energy — it is probably due to the sparse- 
ness of the population. This hot-house plant of our 
civilization only flourishes when human beings live 
crowded together. . . ." 

" I am filled with astonishment at the energy of the 
Japanese as compared with the lethargy of .China. 
There are certainly some amongst us who see in the 
Chinese a danger to Europe. Such fears appear to me 
to be unfounded in view of the genius for standing 
still, displayed by this nation for centuries. On the 
other hand, mercantile conflicts through Japan, and the 
possibility of this country making an appearance as a 
political factor, are rather to be expected." 

"Here in Friedrichsruh I am not in a position to 
form a well-founded opinion about the course and 
result of the present crisis (in Turkey). Both depend 
on the actions of a number of personalities of Europe 

224 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

whom I only know sliglitly, so that I cannot judge with 
accuracy as to what they will do on the occurrence of 
certain events, which may happen. Besides, I do not 
know whether, or to what extent, the Sultan will com- 
ply with the representations of the Powers, and what 
he will do if their harmony is not maintained ; whether 
he may not some day in a passion cancel all that they 
think they have already got from him. Everything 
would then depend upon what Eussia and England 
might do, and the distinctive note which they would 
sound in their counter-proposals : whether England 
would be able to again display the same determi- 
nation towards Eussia and Turkey as in the " seventies," 
and what attitude Austria-Hungary and Italy would 
maintain towards one another? I cannot calculate 
that beforehand — it depends on future eventualities. 
Too many indeterminable factors are present in the 
construction of the problem to enable one to arrive at 
an absolutely certain solution. A statesman can only 
follow the course of such a crisis attentively, and each 
one of the immediately interested States must be in 
constant readiness to preserve her own interests in 
addition to those of the whole of Europe. The best 
policy for Germany is to remain quietly in the back- 
ground during the Turkish game of the Powers, and to 
await the result when it comes. I rejoice to see that 
we are not disposed to give up this reserve, and are 
resisting the temptation to force our way into the ranks 
of those Powers who are immediately interested in the 
Turkish question." 

In discussing events in South Africa, whilst mention- 
ing Chamberlain's headlong policy in terms more drastic 

Bismarck on Politics 225 

than flattering, the Prince defined the distinction which 
existed between the character and actions of the English 
as private persons and the policy of England. The 
individual Briton was decent, respectable, and reliable ; 
the reproach of lying was to him the most serious of 
all reproaches. On the other hand, English policy was 
the contrary of all that ; its dominant characteristic was 
hypocrisy, and it employed every method which the 
individual Briton despised. 

At times, too, the policy of France was not very 
select in its methods. Its conduct towards weaker 
races abroad was as cruel and brutal as that of England ; 
violence and cunning were also to be observed there 
as in the English regime, though the same degree of 
•hypocrisy and perfidy, by which English policy was 
often directed, could not be proved against it. 

The Turks are the only gentlemen in the East, 
whilst all the remaining nations there were more or 
less morally degenerate and politically unreliable. The 
resistance of the Greek statesmen to the suggested 
European control of their finances was, in the Prince's 
opinion, the comhle of fraudulent bankruptcy. 

Speaking of the characteristic traits of the German 
nation, the Prince said that they were still a race of 
non-commissioned officers : every one was eager to get 
the stripes. On an average every man in public life 
had only that degree of self-reliance which corresponded 
to his official hallmark, to the conditions of his official 
rank, and to his orders. Exceptions to this were praise- 
worthy but rare. 

The parties in Germany hardly sufficed to fill exist- 
ing needs, because the latter were principally of an 


226 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

economic and social-political nature. On mention being 
made of the recent visit of the Farmers' League, the 
Prince stated that he had summed up his convictions 
in the phrase, " II faut que la recherche de la fraction 
soit interdite." If anything is to be achieved in 
economic fields, one must put off to a future date 
political differences, which for the time being do not 
come into consideration. If the farmer want to get 
something, he ought not to ask of those who are ready 
to help him : " What political party do you belong to 
generally ? " At first that must be a matter of indiffer- 
ence — " after nine o'iclock for that," as the Berliners say. 
One evening Prince Bismarck related that the nego- 
tiations with Jules Favre concerning the Paris contribu- 
tion of 200 million francs took place on the stairs of his 
house. " We think," he said, " Paris would feel insulted 
if we were to demand less than a milliard," a state- 
ment which nearly drove Favre frantic. However, 
before the foot of the stairs was reached, the amount of 
200 million francs was decided on, and subsequently 
paid. Bismarck thereupon proposed in the Council of 
Ministers that this sum, the first received during the 
National War fought with combined forces, should be 
devoted to wipe off the war indemnities paid to Prussia 
by her present allies in 1866. This proposal met with 
violent resistance, and the Chancellor was told, " These 
affairs belong to the past ! " He replied, " It is not 
only on account' of the past, but also for the future ; 
we shall unite the new Empire more firmly by doing 
this." Nevertheless he remained in the minority, or 
rather quite alone; not one of his colleagues agreeing 
with him. 

Bismarck on Politics 227 

Talking to Mr. Booth in November, 1887, Prince 
Bismarck said, "The outbreak of war depends on 
England's attitude towards Eussia, whether it will be 
that of a charging bull or of an asthmatic fattened ox. 
In the latter case our alliance with Italy will be of 
little use, since she will have to use half her army for 
coast defence against France, as the combined fleets 
of Germany, Austria, and Italy are not equal to the 
French fleet. Should England, however, be a charging 
bull, the French fleet would not only be paralysed, but 
the Turks would also go against Eussia." 

Booth replied that England's action could not be 
reckoned on. 

"Yes," said Bismarck, "just as in England the many 
heads bring the unexpected to pass, so in Eussia the 
one head of the Czar is not to be relied on." 

In reply to Booth's statement that repeated sittings 
of the council of war had taken place in Austria under 
the presidency of the Emperor, Bismarck said, " Nothing 
can remain a secret in Austria, for they have the boast- 
ing Hungarian and the press," and again laid stress on 
the fact that nothing from that quarter was of much 

Bismarck employed the long evenings at Kniephof 
during the early forties in the earnest study of history, 
that of England in particular. He was by no means 
an Anglophobe. "Although the history and institu- 
tions of England," so he declared in after years, " have 
ever been most interesting material for study and 
thought, still the development of Germany must be 
shaped to accord with the peculiar character of the 
social conditions and political institutions of Germany." 

228 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Nothing in his political career angered him more; than 
to meet people who wished to transplant English institu- 
tions promiscuously to Germany. 

Bismarck was inspired with a great admiration for Lord 
Beaconsfield, and one day discussed the personality of 
the English Premier. 

"I repeatedly had him to spend the evening with 
us; as he was unwell he only came on condition of 
being alone, and I thus had many an opportunity of 
getting to know him well. I must say that in spite 
of his fantastic novel- writing he is a capable statesman, 
far above Gortschakoff and many others. It was easy 
to transact business with him : in a quarter of an hour 
you knew exactly how you stood with him ; the limits 
to which he was prepared to go were clearly defined, and 
a rapid summary soon precised matters. Beaconsfield 
speaks magnificent and melodious English and has a 
good voice; he spoke nothing but English at the 
Congress. The Crown Princess asked me about this 
time whether Beaconsfield did not speak French very 
beautifully. I answered that I had not heard anything 
of it up till then. ' But in the Congress ? ' she inquired 
further. 'He only speaks English,' said I; and here 
she dropped the conversation," added the Chancellor 
in English, with a significant gesture of his hand. 

At the close of his eventful career Bismarck was 
able to lay the foundation of the colonial policy of 
Germany, which will probably become an important 
element in the future development of Germany. Even 
as early as 1878 Bismarck observed — 

"Up to 1866 our policy was Prussian-German, till 
1870 German-European, and since then it has been 

Bismarck on Politics 229 

that of the world. In estimating future events we must 
keep an eye on the United States of America, for they 
may develop into a danger to Europe in economic affairs, 
possibly also in others, at present wholly unexpected 
by most of us. In the future the one cannot be 
separated from the other. The war of the future is 
the economic war, the struggle for existence on a grand 
scale. May my successors always bear this in mind, 
and take care when this struggle comes that we are 
prepared for it ! " 


The interior development of the Empire demanded all 
the Chancellor's energies after peace had been con- 
cluded in 1871, the more so since matters had to be 
dealt with which were, at least in part, strange to him, 
and with which he had yet to become acquainted. 
Amongst these tasks was the framing of a commercial 
policy. Bismarck's practical common sense, no less than 
the necessity of taking a majority where he could find 
one, led him towards the Liberal party with all the 
greater force since his breach with Legitimist principles 
in 1866 had estranged many of his former adherents 
in the Conservative party. 

"These people," he observed, "have adopted the 
blinkers which I have torn off the Liberals. They do 
not and will not see that since the accession of the 
Hanoverians, and now of the South Germans, the 
Liberals are very different to what they were formerly. 
Oh, if I were only in as comfortable a position for a 
couple of years, as are my colleagues in England ! But 
the continual domestic quarrels in one's own house 
wear one out ; when one realizes that in the end one 
reaps no thanks, and when one always hears, * The 

Commerce and Colonies 231 

heretic must be burnt ! ' it is not to be wondered at if 
one prefers to go home and cultivate cabbages and shoot 

Bismarck's own grave doubts at that period as to 
whether he was pursuing the right course, or whether 
the Free Trade system — " Manchesterdom," as it was 
termed — which the chief debaters of the Eeichstag 
lauded as the "only medicine for the State," was 
rather more harmful than useful to Germany. Never 
had he been seen so often pacing under the trees in the 
garden of the Chancellor's Palace, his hands behind 
his back, his head bent, and with anxious care in 
every line of his face, as during 1878. His decision 
to introduce a protective tariff solved the momentous 
question, and the Chancellor breathed more freely, 
although the projected socialist legislation would open 
up a new and enormous field of labour. 

'•' Now I have a goal," he remarked at the time, " and 
I shall find the means to reach it. It will cost some 
hard fighting — so much the better ! If the workman 
had no cause for complaint, the roots of social democracy 
would be dug up. Will it ever come to that ? Will 
not the agitator — the workman — always demand more 
the more one gives ? " Then, after a pause, " No 
matter ! the attempt must be made. Should it prove 
a failure — as I almost fear it will — we have at least 
proved our good-will to all the world, and the fault 
will not lie with us if an understanding is not arrived 
at. . . . Germany in advance on the path of social 
reform as well . . . truly a thought 'worthy of the 
sweat of the noble;' but most of them will not 
sweat — that is just the mischief! " he added, with one of 

232 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

his frequent transitions from the profoundest gravity to 
boisterous humour. 

Bismarck was unable to agree with the law against 
Sunday labour, for, as he remarked to a visitor, " This 
law does not please me at all, for it brings me into con- 
flict with my conscience. I will only mention one 
instance : I am riding through the fields on a Sunday 
morning and rejoice over the state of the crops. I then 
see in the distance an industrious worker labouring at 
his little plot of land for the benefit of his family. The 
law says that Sunday labour is forbidden by statute; 
as a landowner I am legally bound to report the man 
or forbid him to work. One can easily imagine the 
consequences ; the man returns home annoyed, and his 
wife will hardly believe his statement that he has no 
right to work on his rented piece of land, as has been 
the custom since time immemorial. The man's resent- 
ment increases, and he goes to the public-house ! 
Sunday is spoilt for the people by the rigorous law, and 
I very much doubt whether that is the right way to 
keep the Sabbath holy. 

" If I think this matter over thoroughly as a land- 
owner, I shall not, in riding through the fields, see a 
Sunday worker ; for I shall turn my horse and hasten 
away so that I may not bring the hard-working and 
industrious labourer into trouble. It would be far 
worse to bring the man into conflict with himself, and 
I should perhaps contribute to the destruction of his 
hitherto undisturbed family happiness by forbidding 
him to work on Sundays at his own allotment, which 
supplies him with food for the year." 

The following official documents relating to goods 

Commerce and Colonies 233 

"made in Germany," testify alike to the Prince's 
striving after commercial honesty and fair dealing, and 
also bear witness to the necessity of Government inter- 
ference in this matter. 

" Friedriohsrah, October 26, 1880. 

"To Count zu Limbukg-Stirum. 

" No. 499 of the Nord Deutsche Allgemeine 
Zeitung contains a very noteworthy leading article on 
some of the defects which cripple our foreign export trade. 
Although I have for some time devoted my attention 
to the question, I miss all the reports from our consu- 
lates about the damage which our foreign trade suffers 
in consequence of dishonest and careless shipments. 
From other sources I hear that cases have occurred 
where swords in scabbards without blades, scissors cast 
in one piece and the like, parcels containing inferior 
goods packed in superior stuffs, have arrived in foreign 
countries from Germany. The defects noticed in the 
accompanying articles, regarding packing and opening, 
are not less harmful for the whole trade of Germany 
than the other dishonesties. I consider it the duty of 
the officials of the Empire to check these occurrences 
and report them officially, so that they can be met as 
far as possible by official and public teaching. I there- 
fore wish that all professional consuls in foreign coun- 
tries, especially in America and Eastern Asia, and also 
in the Levant, may now be directed to report up to 
date their observations on the occurrences indicated, 
and to devote their attention to checking the same in 

" I wish to see and sign the draft of the circular to be 

234 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

addressed to the consulates, in which attention is to be 
drawn to the defects of definite branches of the export 
trade, which may be mentioned in the document." 

The following circular, dated Friedrichsruh, November 
6, 1880, was thereupon issued to the professional Consuls 
of the German Empire : — 

" You are acquainted with the complaints which 
have been made public regarding careless and even 
dishonest shipments in our trans-oceanic trade, and 
the injury to our industries and trade resulting from 
such practices. 

"According to the available information both of former 
and present times, a lamentable lack of reliability with 
regard to German shipments inter alia is apparent both as 
to quality and quantity. Temporary advantages gained 
by such means not only damage the reputation of the 
firms concerned, but also throw discredit on the 
industries and trade of Germany as a whole. It is 
therefore the duty of the Empire to labour energetically 
to abolish these malpractices. Even the making up 
and packing of German goods give rise to grave and 
oft-repeated complaints. The German making up leaves 
much to be desired, as regards shape and neatness 
of appearance, and is therein far behind that of France 
and England. In many instances the packing is not 
even sufficient for the most necessary protection of the 
goods, so that they frequently arrive at their destination 
in a broken or damaged condition. 

" Owing to the results of the inquiry instituted last year 
by the Imperial Charge d' Affaires for Central America, 
on which the decree of July 13 was based, the Council 

Commerce and Colonies 235 

of the Berlin merchants has requested the Export 
Committee • for commercial affairs to report on the 
question — ' What can and must German manufacturers 
and merchants do to promote commerce beyond the 
seas ? ' 

"The report on this question also points to the 
necessity of doing away with the malpractices I have 
alluded to. 

"It is the duty of the Imperial officials to control 
occurrences of this kind, and report them officially, so 
that they may be met as far as possible by advice, both 
officially and in the public papers. 

" I therefore request that you will be so good as to 
pay special attention to the performance of this duty. 

" I look forward to a continuous series of reports on 
your observations in this matter, mentioning by name 
the several cases brought to your notice which may 
appear to be particularly suitable for a remedy, and I 
enclose for your use the above-mentioned report as well 
as a compilation of remarks on German export trade 
and its shortcomings, collected from the results of the 
Central American Inquiry." 

At a soiree given to the members of the PiTissian 
Diet on February 1, 1881, the conversation eventually 
turned on the colonial policy and the trade of Germany. 
Prince Bismarck complained of the action of Inspector 
Fabri in sending him a despatch protesting against the 
colonial policy of England, and further in having 
published the same. In England, private persons 
always keep touch with their Foreign Office in carry- 
ing out their great enterprises, whilst the responsi- 
bility for the latter is only taken over by the State 

236 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

when success is ensured and the path clear. The 
colonial aims and efforts of Germany could only 
achieve success by a similar dependence on the now 
powerful German Foreign Ofi&ce. Fabri had not kept 
touch with it at all. When England was engaged in a . 
contest with the Transvaal Eepublic, was he to direct 
his Consuls to adopt a hostile attitude towards England ? 
The English were everywhere on the best of terms with 
German subjects, whose property and efforts had always 
been protected like their own. The missionaries in 
particular had certainly never had any cause for 
complaint. In times of war, every word was jealously 
weighed, and nothing was worse than to allow one's i 
sympathies to be biased by unimportant points, and to ■ 
leave the conflicting interests, which are at the bottom 
of all struggles, out of consideration. He was not wanting 
in sympathy for the Boers, and that was shown by 1 
his pleasure at their calling themselves what they were \ 
— " Boers " — with pride and self-consciousness. 

But whilst Bismarck was fully alive to the value and 
importance of colonial expansion for the future of the 
German Empire, he cherished but little sympathy for 
those of his countrymen who definitely severed their 
connection with the Fatherland to seek their fortunes 
under a foreign flag. Every German who thus 
abandoned his nationality in quest of gain was in 
Bismarck's eyes a distinct loss to the Empire from 
the economic as well as from the military point of 

The Chancellor's opinion on this subject was stated 
very plainly in the following official letter, addressed to 
the Secretary of State for the Interior : — 

Commerce and Colonies 237 

" Berlin, May 20, 1881. 

"His Serene Highness is of the opinion that the 
present existing statutory and other regulations with 
regard to the system of emigration, and in particular 
the organization of the agency system, are not in keeping 
with the interests of the Empire. It will be better 
to render emigration more difficult than to facilitate it. 
But this course must not be pursued so far, that 
people, who do not wish to remain in the country, and 
have determined to found a home abroad, shall be 
kept back by force. Still, good care must be taken 
to avoid furthering and facilitating emigration, and in 
particular any expense to the State on account of such 

" Keeping this point in view, the State in particular 
must withhold all proofs of sympathy for those Germans 
who have broken their ties to the Fatherland, and must 
officially acknowledge this to be the guiding principle 
of our emigration policy." 

It is worthy of notice that on a former occasion, when 
a request was made for German officials to travel through 
the Province of Eio Grande do Sul in Brazil, with a view 
to reporting on the same, Prince Bismarck curtly 
observed, " I am not anxious to know how people who 
have shaken the dust of the Fatherland off their feet 
are getting on." 

A few months later. Count Herbert Bismarck was 
directed to di-aw attention to the importance of receiving 
reliable reports on the various harvests and crops of 
foreign countries, by means of a letter addressed to 
Under-Secretary Busch. 

238 Conversations with Prince Bismarck - 

" Varzin, September 14, 1881. 

"The Imperial Chancellor has noticed that our 
missions never send in reports on the prospects or 
yields of the crops of the countries to which they are 
accredited. In order to do away with this omission, the 
Imperial Chancellor intends to address a circular to all 
missions, requiring them to furnish such reports at 
regular intervals — every four or six weeks. 

" The Embassies and larger missions, to which Consuls 
General and Consuls are attached, would have to make 
extracts from the reports of all the latter and then 
forward them with their own remarks to the Foreign 
Office. The circular must insist that these reports 
be drawn up in a form suitable for official publication. 
In this matter, the Imperial Chancellor attaches import- 
ance chiefly to discounting, by means of publications 
based on official sources, the generally highly-coloured 
statistics about the condition of agricultural produce 
abroad, which only serve to benefit speculators at the 
expense of producers. Hitherto, it has been almost a 
private monopoly of certain papers and periodicals, chiefly 
influenced by the commercial classes, and published in 
large cities, to issue harvest reports with claims to 
authenticity. These latter often influence the price of 
agricultural produce in a very marked manner, since 
they generally remain unanswered, as the official journals 
are rarely in the position to contradict them. It has 
frequently been observed that merchants depress the 
price of articles, so long as these remain on the hands 
of the producer. This they manage by cleverly 
manipulating news and price quotations in the local 
papers, as well as in the large commercial centres. In 

Commerce and Colonies 239 

late autumn and winter when the producer has sold 
his crops, reports of a different kind, such as a uni- 
versal failure of crops, generally appear in the press, 
so that a considerable rise in prices takes place, which 
only benefits the middleman. This, however, can only 
be avoided by timely and continuous official publi- 
cations which inform the producer as to the prospects 
and prices of the whole world, with which reports the 
so-called world markets, i.e. merchants and brokers, 
will then have to reckon. This would refer chiefly 
to those countries to whom we export, and from 
whom we import. Chief among the former are per- 
haps England, France, Belgium and Holland ; amongst 
the latter. North America, Eussia, and the Danube 

" In the English press, for instance, the Imperial 
Chancellor has read that a total failure of the crops 
may be expected, owing to the continuous rain, and 
that every further rainy day means a loss to England 
of one or two million pounds sterling. But in addition 
to a very experienced Consul General, we have in 
England a large number of selected Consuls, who 
possess judgment and insight into the conditions of 
agriculture. If they were to send such reports at 
intervals, from the beginning of spring, throughout the 
year, to the Embassy which has to forward them, a 
very useful collection of facts would be the result. 

" But in addition to the interest to our agriculture to 
have definite knowledge about those crops which other 
nations, besides ourselves, produce, it is also of importance 
for our industries to have information about the cotton 
crops of North America and Asia, as well as about the 

240 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

state of wool in Australia, etc., and the circular should 
call attention to any increase of these articles which 
deserve special observation." 

In March, 1882, the French Government assisted 
Germany to send delegates to a commission in Paris 
which was to discuss the principles for an International 
Convention for the protection of submarine cables. 

The Chancellor's remarks were as follows : — 

« Varzin, October 1, 1882. 
" Germany will have to take part in the Conference, 
because we cannot be the only nation to hold aloof, 
though I am afraid that the eventual agreement will 
not be of much use to us. Other nations are im- 
bued with a strong national egotism, and will proceed 
leniently against their own subjects for damage done 
to foreign cables. "Whereas we, with our cosmopolitan 
feeling of justice, are sure to carry out the penal agree- 
ments strictly towards our own subjects for the protection 
of foreign cables. The result would probably be that we 
should protect our own and foreign cables, whilst the 
others would only protect their own." 

At a parliamentary soiree given by the Chancellor 
on February 1, 1881, one of the guests reminded him 
that he always seemed to find some fresh work to do. 
The Prince's mood, which till then had been rather 
downcast at remembering the completeness of his breach 
with his old friends of the Conservative party, suddenly 
brightened up, and with a smile he answered, " You are 
hinting at my last new role of Minister of Commerce.* 
♦ August 23, 1880. 

Gommerce and Colonies 241 

Yes, I undertook that in the spirit of Odysseus and the 
suitors. I want to drive the man out of Prussia, and, 
as it were, capture the post for the Empire. We have 
no Prussian, Saxon, or Brunswick commerce, but only 
a German one, and therefore the Ministry of Commerce 
must be an Imperial institution. But the setting aside 
of this office does not progress very quickly, as Prussia 
is the most particularist State in Germany. How- 
ever, I shall yet bring it to pass by retiring some 

On September 25, 1884, in the presence of some 
Hamburg merchants, Bismarck repeatedly urged the 
necessity of practical merchants developing the Colonial 
policy of the Empire, which duty he could not leave to 
the bureaucratic element: "I cannot send a Prussian 
LaTidrat to the Cameroons." 

The Prince mentioned that he had been advised, in 
many quarters, and by some " very clever " people, to 
cede Angra Pequena in German South-west Africa to 
Britain in exchange for Heligoland, whereas his opinion 
of the value of South-west Africa was very different. 

Bismarck then discussed the relations of Germany 
with England and France in regard to their colonial 
policy. On informing the British Government of the 
annexation of Angra Pequena, he expected that England 
would welcome Germany's first steps in colonial policy 
with friendliness, and that no difficulties would be 
made, thus rendering the united advance of Germany 
and England possible. Since, however, the contrary 
had happened, he had to come to an understanding 
with France, and it was therefore of importance to 
spare French susceptibility whilst advancing in West 

242 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Africa and elsewhere. It would be impossible for 
Germany's colonial policy to flourish if opposed by 
both England and France. Up till then England had 
"missed the connection," and thus an understanding 
with France had been effected. 

A memorial, addressed by the Hamburg Chamber of 
Commerce to the Foreign Office, pointing out that,, 
contrary to international law, the French blockade of 
certain Chinese ports was not an effective one, was 
summarily dismissed in a few words. The Chancellor 
did not conceal his astonishment that this memorial 
should have been presented by the Hamburg Chamber 
of Commerce, above all people. He could not interfere 
in French affairs; otherwise the danger would arise 
that French men-of-war might blockade the Elbe, 
which would cost the Hamburgers more than any 
damage inflicted by an ineffective blockade of Chinese 

One day, after his retirement (February 22, 1896), 
Bismarck discussed the colonial policy of Germany 
very fully. The Prince continued to uphold his former 
conviction that the merchant must go first and the 
State follow afterwards. It was always correct to take 
possession of a strip of coast, some two or three days* 
march in breadth, and come to an amicable convention 
with the negroes in the rear ; if this were broken, or 
if any other acts of violence took place, military ex- 
peditions must be despatched to the Hinterland without 
delay, to give the aborigines an energetic and deterring 
punishment. No success could be hoped for by trans- 
planting the Prussian Government assessor and his 
bureaucratic system to Africa. Work at the green 

Commerce and Colonies 243 

table was the very last thing suitable for that sphere. 
He, the Prince, was no unconditional adherent of 
the abolition of slavery, which had existed in that 
country for thousands of years, and was established 
because of the local conditions. But, on the other 
hand, the brutal and wrongful treatment of the negroes, 
such as that which had unfortunately been proved 
in certain cases against Germans, must be disapproved 
of. True, he did not believe in the equality of all 
races, but, on the contrary, he believed that the 
negro races had, by a Divine Providence, received a 
different destiny to that of the whites; but it would 
be a mistake if the whites made use of their supe- 
riority in a manner which ran contrary to humanity 
as well as to practical advantage. There was in negro 
races something of the nature of horses and dogs, but 
the system of training even animals by blows was 
out of date. An old riding master often called out 
in the manege when a pupil hit his horse or otherwise 
treated it harshly, "Don't hit your horse, it is not 
to blame for your inability to ride; your treatment 
of it is at fault." Moreover, it was a striking ex- 
ample of the negro's good nature that five whites, as 
often happened, undertook dangerous expeditions into 
the interior under the most difficult circumstances 
without having any further security than that arising 
from the " faith and loyalty " of the negroes. If there 
was something of the canine character in the black 
man, it was no disgrace to him, and the whites, who 
made use of this trait, ought to avoid treating the negro 
cruelly just because of this canine nature. No doubt 
the negro was lazy, and had to be driven, but not by 

^44 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

inhuman means. The black soldier, also, had often 
enough proved that he was not wanting in courage and 
self-sacrifice. He therefore regretted every time he 
read reports in the papers about occurrences in which 
it happened that negroes had been inhumanly and 
unjustly treated. Major Wissman knew how to deal 
with negro races. 



The years preceding 1866 were those which laid the 
heaviest burden on the Chancellor's shoulders, since, 
both at home and abroad, enormous difficulties had to 
be met and overcome before the German nation could 
assume the place to which Bismarck felt that it was 
entitled. The time not occupied by his foreign 
policy was devoted to parliamentary struggles and 
contentions, in order that the reorganization of the 
Prussian Army, the basis and conditio sine qua non 
of all later successes, might be secured. Constitu- 
tional conflicts also caused a certain stagnation in 
domestic legislation, though the chief reason of Bis- 
marck's comparative inactivity in the field of home 
politics up to 1866 lay in the constitution of the 
Prussian Ministry. Each minister was practically an 
independent entity in the State, and was only bound 
to bring the affairs of his department to the notice of 
the Ministry for deliberation. 

Bismarck's complaints about this want of power in 
the Ministry date from an early period, and have often 
been asserted. 

" The President of the Ministry," he remarked in the 

246 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

House, on January 25, 1873, " has no greater influence 
on the management of affairs as a whole than any one 
of his colleagues. If he wishes to obtain such an in- 
fluence, he is forced to gain his colleagues over by 
entreaties, persuasion, correspondence, complaints at 
Ministerial meetings — in short, by struggles which tax 
the energy of the individual to a very great degree." 

And again on December 1, 1874, he thus alludes to 
his position : " The President of the Ministry is merely 
an ornamental member. I direct only in so far as the 
order of business is concerned, and I have by no means 
the disposal of the same. For years I may remain 
convinced that one of my colleagues does not choose 
the way for which I could accept the responsibility ; 
but I cannot alter matters unless I force him to 
subordinate his views in some particular instance to 
mine, by means of persuasion, by entreaties, or by a 
majority in the Ministry." 

Finally, on March 6, 1878, Bismarck practically 
denied the existence of a President of the Ministry in 
Prussia : there was only a Minister who bore the title 
and had to lead in the debates officially ; he could ash 
his colleagues, "but he has no orders to issue." The 
King was the real de facto President of the Ministry. 
(January 29, 1881.) 

From these expressions of his views, to which many 
more might be. added, it is easy to see that the 
powers of a President of the Ministry were too 
limited for a man of Bismarck's nature ; the whole 
apparatus could only work without friction when con- 
genial spirits, such as Bismarck fortunately found in 
later years, shared his labours. 

Bismarck and his Fellow-Workers 247 

To mention only a few of such wearying and ex- 
hausting conflicts of opinions in the Ministry, the 
following instances may be cited. 

Count von Itzenplitz, who was Minister of Commerce 
from 1862-1873, permitted his department to remain 
a hotbed of that bureaucratism which was so distasteful 
to Bismarck's temperament and progressive ideas. The 
establishment of sound " Land-Credit " of&ces advanced 
too slowly; the North-Sea-Baltic Canal threatened to 
remain unfinished, and only repeated entreaties were, 
in a measure, successful in pushing forward railway 

In a letter addressed (March 1, 1873) to Count Eoon, 
who was then President of the Ministry, Bismarck 
observed that he had often had occasion to disagree with 
the principles pursued by the Ministry of Commerce. 
" I have hitherto only shown my dissent by a negative 
vote in various questions. I have been guided in this 
by the conviction that the political solidarity of the 
Ministry of State, created under such difficult circum- 
stances and maintained under changing political in- 
fluences, must not be endangered by me, because I 
happen to know the wishes of his Majesty the King. 
This consideration falls to the ground if his Excellency, 
Count von Itzenplitz, who has for ten years taken his 
full share in the great political labours of the Govern- 
ment, resigns his position as Minister of Commerce. 
In that case considerations for the personal convictions 
of an old colleague no longer bind me." 

The friction between Bismarck and Herr von Bodel- 
schwingh. Minister of Finance, 1862-1866, reached its 
climax when the latter, on February 28, 1866, warned 

248 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

the Crown Council against a fratricidal war (with 
Austria). A couple of months later on he even 
suggested that the Minister of War should cancel 
the increase of the army establishment of horses. 
It has been alleged that before the outbreak of the 
war von Bodelschwingh declared that he could not 
procure the money required for the payment of the 

How deeply Bismarck resented these actions is shown 
by the fact that he would not willingly speak to any 
member of Bodelschwingh's party (Conservative) until 
his opponent had retired from the committee. Even 
as late as December, 1872, Bismarck expressed his 
annoyance that the Conservatives should have followed 
the lead of such an intriguer as Bodelschwingh. 

Though von der Heydt (Finance Minister, 1866-1869) 
was not exactly sympathetic to Bismarck, he was at 
least an able and energetic subordinate, who knew how 
to raise money — " and that is what we want," observed 
his chief. Yet differences arose between the Chancellor 
and the " money uncle," as he termed him in a letter 
to Eoon, which led to his retirement in 1869. Bismarck 
paid full tribute to his qualities in the Eeichstag, by 
declaring, " We cannot doubt his patriotism, his honesty, 
nor, least of all, his caution, in cases such as the one 
now under consideration." 

Bismarck considered Count Harry Arnim, the German 
Ambassador at Paris, an uncommonly talented diplomat, 
but nevertheless he was not slow in recognizing his 
faults: impatient ambition, unbounded vanity, and a 
tendency to act in politics according to his personal 
sympathies and inclination. Besides his rapidly 

Bismarck and his Fellow-Workers 249 

changing impressions, which even showed themselves 
in his official reports, Count Arnim was not always able 
to draw the line between fact and fiction. He was 
intent on paving the way for a restoration of the 
Empire in France after the war, because he con- 
sidered the republic to be a dangerous example for 
Germany; Bismarck, on the other hand, thought it 
a deterrent one, and demanded that the Ambassador 
should abstain from hostility towards M. Thiers and 
the existing form of government. Arnim, strong in 
the belief in himself, did not gauge the future; 
Bismarck repeatedly urged that it was no part of 
Germany's duty to render France capable of forming 
an alliance, but rather to preserve the firm connection 
between the remaining great monarchies of Europe 
which could not be endangered by any republic. No 
less than eight despatches were addressed to Count 
Arnim by the Foreign Office between December 30, 
1872, and January 21, 1873. It is therefore not sur- 
prising that Bismarck should have lost patience and 
informed his subordinate that in order to carry on affairs 
one must demand from the Imperial agents abroad " a 
higher degree of obedience and a lesser measure of inde- 
pendent initiative and of fruitfulness of political views 
than those on which your Excellency has hitherto based 
your reports and your official attitude." 

Arnim complained to the Emperor about this last 
despatch ; but before the incorrect copy, which he sent to 
his Sovereign, could reach its destination, the Emperor 
had decided to recall the Count and entrust him with 
the new Embassy at Constantinople. On the 2nd of 
April, 1874, however, the Vienna Presse published 

250 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" diplomatic revelations " dating from the Vatican 
Concilium (to which Arnim wished to send oratores, 
though Bismarck declined to interfere in the internal 
affairs of the Eoman Catholic Church), which obviously- 
aimed at glorifying Arnim's diplomatic capabilities at 
the expense of Bismarck. In a letter to the Foreign 
Office, Count Arnim disclaimed all responsibility " from 
any point of view " for these Vienna revelations. He 
further denied having sent a notice to the Brussels 
Echo du Parlement to the effect that he had resigned 
his appointment, and that Bismarck intended to have 
current business in Paris transacted in future by a 
consul. Both these denials of the Count in official 
documents were untrue, for the Brussels rumour was 
disseminated by his press agent. Dr. Beckmann, and he 
himself directly caused the publication of the Vienna 
reports. Moreover, he had removed a large number of 
official documents from the Paris Embassy without 
informing the Foreign Office, and either delayed or 
flatly refused to return them when called upon to do so. 
In the end. Count Arnim was sentenced to three 
months' imprisonment for an "offence against public 

Arnim, however, escaped punishment by flight, and 
in exile wrote the notorious pamphlet " Pro Nihilo," in 
which, amongst other scandalous crimes, he accused 
Bismarck of secretly speculating with Bleichroder on the 
Bourse. On the '5th of October, 1876, ten members of 
the Court of Justice declared Count Arnim to be 
guilty of treason, lese majeste, repeated libels on Prince 
Bismarck and the Foreign Office, and condemned him 
to five years' penal servitude. The Court expressly 

Bismarck and his Fellow-Workers 251 

declared that a " dishonourable intention " existed in 
connection with his crime of treason. 

The following instance shows clearly how strongly 
the Chancellor resented any improper interference by 
the Councillors of the King's Privy Cabinet, civilian or 
military, in the affairs of the Government. 

A former Hanoverian post-office official was recom- 
mended by the Chancellor's Office for the vacancy at 
Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1869. Privy Cabinet Coun- 
cillor von Muhler felt compelled to advise the King, in 
his official capacity as acting Chief Petty Councillor, to 
abstain from making this appointment, basing his 
objection on the fact that the correspondence of the 
dethroned King of Hanover passed through Frankfort, 
so that it would be distasteful for the proposed nominee 
to execute any precautions that might be ordered. The 
Civil Cabinet therefore requested the Chancellor's Office 
to submit another name. Von Eoon, acting as Bis- 
marck's substitute, countersigned the declinatory de- 
cision. Count Bismarck therefore felt compelled to 
address a memorial to the King on the 26th of August, 
1869, in which inter alia he observed — 

"Hitherto it has never happened that the technical 
criticism of the qualifications of a person has been 
transferred to the Civil Cabinet. If the Post- 
master-General is no longer considered capable of 
appreciating the technical qualifications of officials of his 
Department, the Cabinet Councillor, who is better able 
to judge, should replace him if discipline is to remain 
in the service. The latter quality cannot be preserved 
with a system according to which personal qualifications 
are judged by the Cabinet, while the centre of gravity 

252 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

of personal questions is transferred to an authority 
which is not officially responsible. By such a system a 
wide door would be opened to nepotism ; of this we are 
already accused — especially as regards the appointments 
to new provinces, and this accusation, it would seem, 
is not without justification. The present case appears 
to be without precedent in the service of Prussia. If 
the King himself is in favour of a particular official, his 
Majesty would probably not keep his wishes in the 
background. His Majesty has hitherto confidently 
entrusted the Postmaster-General with the judgment of 
the qualifications of an official. In this case therefore 
one can only ascribe the Eoyal decision, declining an 
official proposal, to the postal representations of Cabinet 
Councillor von Miihler — a method of influencing the 
Eoyal decisions on current business which is incom- 
patible with the position of the Cabinet Council, and 
which increases and impedes business." 

In the memorial to the King, the Chancellor naturally 
restrained his anger, but the more terrible was the out- 
pouring of his wrath in the covering letter addressed to 

"I do not know whether Miihler has any special 
candidate in view, or whether he has only this 
frivolous motive for the Eoyal decision in order to cloak 
some female suggestion [here follow the names of in- 
fluential ladies]. But I cannot get on with Post-office 
camarillas nor harem intrigues, and no one can expect 
that I should sacrifice health, life, and even the reputa- 
tion of honesty to serve such plots. I have not slept 
for thirty-six hours ; I have spat bile all night, and my 
head is like a furnace in spite of compresses. It is 

Bismarck and his Fellow- Workers 253 

enough to make one go mad ! Forgive my excitement ; 
although your name is attached to the affair, I cannot 
suppose that by the formality of signing it you have 
identified yourself with the matter, or even examined it. 
I myself leave such matters to the blameless Philips- 
born [the Postmaster-General], but not to the Cabinet 
Miihler or to [name of a lady]." 

Eoon replied on the 1st of September. " I am 
heartily sorry that by my counter-signature I have 
become a co-defendant. But in my excuse I may 
perhaps remind you that we not infrequently counter- 
sign things without having investigated them sufficiently. 
If I had had any idea of the effect and the importance 
of this order on you, I would have remonstrated against 
it, I am ready to do so to-day." 

The impression which Bismarck made on his subordi- 
nates in office is thus described by one of them : * 

" With his equipment of extraordinary gifts of body, 
soul, and spirit, he towered high above all ordinary sons 
of men, and also made great demands on the working 
powers, devotion and loyalty of his subordinates. On 
his arrival we all had the impression that he looked 
upon us with a suspicious eye, as if he thought we were 
perhaps bribed, or were under some other sinister in- 
fluence. But when he had convinced himself that we 
were all honourable men and good Prussians in the 
bureau of the Minister of State, he gave us his confidence. 
For all that we were only the tools of his will, no room 
was left for comfortable relationship ; but I believe of him 
that he was wholly and entirely in the service of his 
King and master as his subject and vassal with his 

* Privy Councillor Immanuel Hegel. 

254 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

possessions, blood, body and life, and was prepared to 
stake everything for him. 

" Owing to many years of intercourse with Presidents 
of the Ministry I was used to the routine ; I conse- 
quently avoided any really confidential relationships ; 
acted with modesty, and yet without shyness, and I 
took pains to do my duty to the best of my ability, and 
to help the President of the Ministry with my services 
so far as mind and eye could reach. Thus I also gained 
Bismarck's confidence ; I always remained frank and 
sincere, nor did he ever check me in this. During the 
whole time of my connection with him I never came 
into conflict or received a slighting word from him. 
Things may perhaps have changed in later years. ... A 
comfortable, self-contented nonchalance found no favour 
in his eyes ; one was then in danger of being cast aside 
or trodden underfoot. In him strong self-respect, a fear- 
less energy, an imaginative gift of combination, and, in 
spite of passionate excitability, a surprising sobriety, 
were combined with calculated moderation. At that 
time there was a violent constitutional conflict with 
the Liberal Diet ; and during the crisis I watched him 
with unqualified admiration. His genial intuition — 
the rapidity with which he weighed and decided 
between conflicting views was most remarkable." 

A similar testimony to Bismarck's sympathy with 
loyal and industrious subordinates is given by the post- 
master in Kissingen : 

" Fifteen summers constitute a long period, and yet I 
seem to be in a dream when I think of how I stood with 
a beating heart for the first time as a young official 
before the intellectual giant, who, though his fame was 

Bismarck and his Fellow- Workers 255 

then at its highest, did not disdain to remember a 
subordinate official, who had merely done his duty. 
Thus it happened through many a summer when times 
became quieter. The idyllic sojourn at the Upper 
Saline was only interrupted by the brilliant ovations 
offered to the Imperial Chancellor by a grateful nation. 
A serious illness brought his stay at the world-famed 
resort to an end. A few years later I was a guest in 
the Sachsenwald, and I found the strength of the old 
German oak broken. So much is written of Bismarck^s 
deeds as a statesman — and rightly too ; but Bismarck as 
a man also possessed virtues which distinguished him 
from the multitude, and amongst them I reckon grati- 
tude towards subordinates. If ever one had an oppor- 
tunity to render the great statesman even the smallest 
service, it was always certain to be acknowledged." 

Herr von Keudell was one of the busiest of Bis- 
marck's subordinates in the Foreign Office (1864-1872). 
To him Bismarck entrusted many negotiations with 
Bleichroder, who corresponded with Eothschild and 
thus communicated various matters to Napoleon which 
could not be done officially through the Ambassador at 
Paris. Amongst his other duties were the administration 
of the Guelph Fund and the superintendence of the 
political press. Herr von Keudell's subsequent resigna- 
tion of his appointment as Ambassador at the Quirinal 
was by no means based on differences with the Chancellor, 
as has been maintained, his only reason being his desire 
to give his children a German education and to avoid 
the effect of a southern climate. 

William I. hesitated a long time before he could 
consent to sign the patent appointing Lothar Bucher 

256 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

as a secretary of legation. It is even said that the King 
crushed his pen underfoot in his indignation that 
Bismarck should have suggested one who in earlier days 
had been such an opponent of taxation for an appoint- 
ment in the Foreign Office. Later on, however, he 
recognized how valuable an assistant Bismarck had 
acquired, and had direct relations with him on various 

Bucher was at first somewhat ignored by his col- 
leagues, and for the time being it was considered 
advisable that no mention of his appointment should be 
made in the Staats Anzeiger. His capacity for work 
was enormous ; for instance, if a question was discussed 
at dinner in Varzin, the following morning would find 
an exhaustive promemoria by Bucher on the Chancellor's 
breakfast -table. Another characteristic trait was his 
great capacity for silence, and many a guest came away 
from Varzin without having heard even one word from 
the mouth of Privy Councillor Bucher. 

Concerning Hermann Wagener, who wished to retire 
on being passed over for promotion, the Chancellor wrote 
to Boon in October, 1868 : " He is not such a help to me 
officially as he might be with his talents. Inexperience 
of office work, obstinacy, threats to retire, other occupa- 
tions, and above all the shock to my confidence by 
Senfft's threats nomine Wagener, in the event of the 
latter retiring, intervene and disturb. Yet Wagener is 
the only debater of the Conservative party, hard and 
uncomfortable though he be, who is still necessaiy ; and 
even if he does retire, I am sure he has sufficient honour 
not to divulge official secrets. For parliamentary reasons 
I beg you to avoid precipitation in this matter, and if 

Bismarck and his Fellow- Workers 257 

necessary to influence his Majesty in this direction. 
One must not judge Wagener solely as a ministerial 
councillor, but also as a deputy and a man of service 
to the Conservative and Eoyal cause. I do not know 
who is to replace him in the Chamber, and gratitude is 
due to him for ' Forty-eight.' " 

The official relationship between the Chancellor and 
Wagener is clearly shown by the following exchange of 
letters at the commencement of the " Kultur-Kampf " 
in February, 1872. Wagener wrote as follows : " I beg 
to report most obediently to your Highness that I 
am very unwell to-day and unable to work. The 
reproaches yesterday evening were very painful to 
me, the more so as they must convince me that 
my powers are no longer equal to my work." The 
Prince replied, " I hope that you will soon be restored 
to health ; and in my nervous and unhealthy condition 
I beg that you will not make my life more burdensome 
by disagreements about external matters than it is 
already. You are the only one of my entourage with 
whom I can speak frankly without reservation, and if 
I cannot do that any more I shall be suffocated by my 
bile. I have not reproached you so much as the slow 
progress of business in the Ministry, and even if the 
former had been the case I should think that you ought 
to be able to pardon so old and much tortured a friend." 

A characteristic trait of Bismarck's methods of 
educatiDg his sons is shown by the fact that Count 
William voted against a resolution of the Chancellor's 
in the Eeichstag. On being questioned, Bismarck 
replied that he had always been careful to preserve the 
complete independence of his sons. Greatly against the 

258 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

inclination of his wife he never asked his sons — even 
at the early age of six — or allowed them to be asked 
where they were going, but permitted them to act freely 
for themselves. 

Count William's career as a member of the Reichstag 
was a comparatively short one, and his activity was 
displayed rather behind the scenes as an intermediary 
between his father and the Parliamentarians than as a 
principal actor on the stage, Nevertheless, in fighting 
against the Chancellor's opponents, Count William's 
vigorous efforts attracted the special attention of Eugen 
Eichter's faction, and so it happened that he lost his 
seat at the autumn election of 1881, and since then he 
has only sat in the Prussian House of Deputies. 

In 1885, after serving as assistant to Herr von Tiede- 
mann in the Imperial Chancellerie, and also as secretary 
to his father in the Prussian Ministry, Count William 
was appointed Landrat (district magistrate) of Hanau; 
but even there the hatred of his father's opponents 
pursued him. A revocation of the order forbidding 
merry-go-rounds to be accompanied by barrel-organs, 
and an admonition to National School teachers against 
Irequenting public-houses and playing cards, called 
down on him the anathemas of the champions for the 
liberty and equal rights for all men. 

On being appointed to the Presidency of the Govern- 
ment in Hanover four years later, however, Count 
William learned that his efforts for the welfare of 
Hanau had not passed unappreciated, and the departure 
of " Count Bill " was lamented on all sides. 

On the dismissal of Prince Bismarck and the resigna- 
tion of Count Herbert in 1890, Count William remained 

Bismarck and his Fellow- Workers 259 

in office, and in due course (in 1895) was promoted to 
the province of East Prussia. 

After probationary service in 1874 in the Embassies 
at Dresden and Munich, Count Herbert Bismarck com- 
menced his political career as his father's amanuensis 
and secretary. The Chancellor had need of such loyal 
and discreet help, since State secrets, as Louis XIV. 
said, must be entrusted to the fewest possible hands. 
But Count Herbert was also of service in negotiating 
matters on behalf of the Chancellor, such, for instance, 
as the occupation and administration of Bosnia and 
Herzegovina at the time of the Berlin Congress, and, 
later on in London, in connection with Lord Granville's 
indiscretions regarding Egypt and Samoa. 

In November, 1881, Count Herbert was attached to 
the London Embassy under Count Miinster, where he 
remained until 1884, and thus witnessed the first efforts 
of German colonial policy, which afterwards were to 
fall into his hands for development. A few months 
were then passed at the Embassy to the Eussian Court, 
where Count Herbert met Prince William (the present 
Emperor) of Prussia at the coming-of-age festivities of 
the Czarewitch in May, 1884. On his return from 
Eussia, Count Herbert was appointed Ambassador at 
the Hague. 

In the autumn of 1884, three years after his brother 
had lost his seat. Count Herbert was returned to the 
Eeichstag by a Schleswig-Holstein constituency. On 
May 11, 1885, he was appointed Under Secretary of 
State in the Foreign Office, but since his chief. Count 
Hatzfeldt, had been transferred to London, the bulk 
of the work fell on his shoulders at the time when 

26o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Germany's colonial policy was first being developed. 
On his promotion as Secretary of State in May, 1886, 
a noisy clamour was raised by the Opposition. They 
said that the traditions and routine of the various diplo- 
matic personages, with whom he had now to correspond, 
were unknown to him. His opponents affected to for- 
get his many years' experience of practical diplomacy 
under his father's immediate supervision, and it was 
absurd to maintain that Count Herbert was unac- 
quainted with either office routine or diplomatists in 
general. It was not without reason that he was de- 
clared to be the Chancellor's "most trusted assistant 
in politics." It was, besides, of vital importance to 
the quick despatch of business that the discussion of 
these affairs with the Chancellor should be settled as 
soon as possible, and in this his son's position enabled 
such decisions to be obtained with the least delay. 
Count Herbert's promotion at the age of thirty-eight as 
Minister on April 26, 1888, by the Emperor Frederick, 
again gave rise to discussion about such youthful 
ministers. However, even in the Bismarck family 
this appointment had a precedent, for among others 
who had attained such high rank at an early age was 
William Augustus von Bismarck, an ancestor of the 
Count, who was appointed Minister of War in 1782 
at the age of thirty-two. 

It was under William II. that Count Herbert's energy 
and diplomatic talents had most scope. The difficulties 
with England and the United States concerning the 
Samoan question, where a party of German marines 
suffered a reverse at the hands of the insurgents, were 
settled, at least for the time being, by a Conference at 

Bismarck and his Fellow-Workers 261 

Berlin in 1889, over which he presided. The German 
colonial policy in East and West Africa was under the 
direct superintendence of Count Herbert, and also in- 
cluded the question of the suppression of the slave trade, 
which the Chancellor had left entirely in the hands of liis 
son. After accompanying the Emperor on his travels 
to the various European Courts, Count Herbert paid a 
visit to England in March, 1889, to ascertain the wishes 
of the Queen as to the approaching visit of the Emperor, 
which took place in August of the same year. 

As the Chancellor's advancing years rendered his 
parliamentary soirees burdensome to him. Count Herbert 
stepped into the breach and relieved his father of the 
greater part of his social duties. 

Since the plan that Prince Bismarck should be gradu- 
ally relieved of his of&ces — he was to remain Imperial 
Chancellor, with Count Herbert as Minister of Foreign 
Affairs and Herr von Boetticher as President of the 
Prussian Ministry — came to naught. Count Herbert 
followed his father's example and sent in his resignation, 
though the Emperor, according to the Kolnische ZeituTig, 
repeatedly attempted to dissuade him from this step. 



After working late at night with his secretaries at 
Berlin on November 21, 1876, Prince Bismarck joined 
the family circle for a cup of tea. The conversation 
eventually turned on the Eeichstag, which had just 
been opened, and the Prince expressed the opinion that 
the session would end before Christmas. 

"Man proposes and — Lasker disposes," interrupted 

Herr von P . The Prince frowned as if the jest 

did not please him ; but Privy Councillor L did not 

appear to have noticed this, for he remarked, " A curious 
document reached me to-day ; it is entitled ' The best 
means of curtailing the sessions of the Eeichstag and 
Landtag,' or, ' What Lasker costs the State every year.' " 

A shout of laughter followed, in which every one 
joined with the exception of Prince Bismarck. 

"Where is the document, my dear Councillor?" 
asked Herr von P . 

" Oh ! I have got it here, and I would read it aloud 
if I thought it would not be tedious to the company." 

Every one wished that the pamphlet should be read 
aloud, and the Prince assented by his silence. 

Privy Councillor L then commenced — 

In Lighter Vein 263 

"Since Lasker first mounted the parliamentary 
tribune in 1865 he has uttered a total of 927,745,328 
words in the Donhofsplatz and at the other end of the 
Leipzigerstrasse — 154 times as many words as the 
whole of the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha, 
contains; or 42 times as many as Goethe wrote; 
or 3*9 times as many as Cicero used in the speeches 
which have been preserved. If all the words spoken 
by Lasker were written consecutively on one strip of 
paper they would go more than nine times round the 
world, that is to say, nine times from Berlin across 
the Atlantic to America, the Pacific, Japan, Asia, 
Jerusalem, and back again to Berlin." Eenewed laughter, 
in which the Prince, at first reluctantly, joined. "If 
Lasker continues to talk at that rate, the strip will 
soon reach from the Donhofsplatz to the moon." 

"Pray how long will it be before it reaches the 
sun ? " asked a lady. 

" The statistician unfortunately does not say," replied 
L . " Lasker has moved a total of 27,334 amend- 
ments, of which 27,211 have been carried. In eleven 
years, only, the shorthand reports record no less than 
11,874 cheers, of which 8,881 were 'loud.' He has 
only once been called to order." 

" What ! " exclaimed the audience, " Lasker has been 
called to order ? " 

" Certainly," interrupted the Prince, " a year ago in 
the Eeichstag on account of a remark about Windthorst. 
It is the only thing upon which I can heartily con- 
gratulate him." 

And so the merry jest proceeded until Bismarck, in 
reply to his wife, observed, " I should be quite pleased 

264 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

to have Lasker in the Ministry, only he is too many 
sided. Choice is tiresome ; I should not know whether 
to entrust him with Justice, Finance, the Interior, or 

"War, my dear Otto, War," interrupted Herr von 
P . 

" Or Public Worship," remarked a lady. 

"Well," replied the Prince, "a good lawyer easily 
makes a good Minister of Public Worship, either 
Palk or Lasker." A remark that caused general 
4" The following amusing anecdote was related at dinner 
one evening by Bismarck : — 

" The Grand Duke of Mecklenburg was gambling at 
the Doberan tables, and was betting on the same numbers 
as a rich master potter who stood next to him. Both 
having lost their money, the Grand Duke inquired, " Na 
Potter wat makt vir nu ? " (Well, potter, what shall we 
do now?) "Oh," replied the master potter, " Hoheit 
schriewen Steurn ut, un ik maJc Pott ! " (Your Highness 
will screw up the taxes, and I shall make pots !) 

In expressing his sincere pleasure that the fourth 
part of the congratulatory letters, poems, etc., on the 
occasion of his birthday should have come from women 
and girls, Bismarck remarked, " I consider this a good 
sign, for, to judge by my own experience, the good 
will of women is not so easily gained as that of men. 
Moreover, the fair sex has never been partial to me. 
— I don't know why. I shall never forget the Grand 
Duchess X. She would not have anything to do with 
me. She used to say that I was too arrogant, that I 
spoke as if I were a Grand Duke. Apparently she 

In Lighter Vein 265 

divided the human race into three classes — whites, blacks, 
and Grand Dukes ; but she of course places the Grand 
Dukes first." 

St. Petersburg society in 1859 was agreeably sur- 
prised with its new Ambassador, for until his arrival 
it had been accustomed to court-bred pedants, whose 
chief object was to bask in the Czar's favour. The 
original and forcible character of the new Prussian 
representative was therefore all the more welcome ; and 
though the Bismarcks were unable to vie vnih the 
splendid entertainments of the other diplomats of the 
Eussian capital, the little dinners and soirees at their 
house, near the Nikolai Bridge, were far more popular 
than were the tedious display of others. 

Bismarck's relations with Alexander II. were also on 
a very different footing to those of his predecessor. For 
instance, at a dinner given in honour of the King of 
Prussia, the Czar omitted to drain his glass in toasting 
his uncle, expressing the wish to devote the remainder 
to Bismarck's health. Bismarck pretended embarrass- 
ment, and pointing to his own empty glass, remarked, 
" I would willingly follow your Majesty, but we Germans 
have a saying, ' He who means well drains his glass.' " 
The Czar smiled, finished his glass, and drank Bismarck's 
health in a fresh bumper. 
^ That Bismarck could take a joke against himself in 
good part is shown by an incident which occurred at 
the Wallner Theatre at Berlin, in 1863. Herr von Beust 
and Bismarck went to see a new play, in which the 
recent press measures came in for unstinted criticism. 
Both Ministers joined in the loud applause which 
rewarded the efforts of the actor, who, in spite of 

266 Conservations with Prince Bismarck 

repeated calls, refused to appear on the stage. At 
last he came forward and remarked with the utmost 
calm, "It was not necessary to call me. Behind 
that door I hear everything that goes on in here." 
Eenewed bursts of applause greeted the hit at Bismarck, 
for he had, a short time before, left the Chamber of 
Deputies during a violent attack on the Ministry and 
retired to the Ministers' room close by. One of the 
speakers then remarked on the absence of the Minister 
against whom the attack was directed. Bismarck sud- 
denly entered the Chamber with the words, " It is not 
necessary to call me, for I can hear so loud a voice 
even in the next room ! " 

Bismarck once related, in tones of the warmest 
appreciation, the following characteristic traits of the 
great Field Marshal, Count Moltke : — 

'*He was quite an exception in his punctilious 
devotion to duty; his was a peculiar nature, always 
ready and implicitly reliable, because he was cool to 
the very core. He w^ould never have forgiven himself 
the least irregularity, even in his dress." Always a 
quatre epingles, the saying of the ever correct clock of duty 
applied to him by day and by night. Bismarck himself 
was far behind him so far as externals were concerned. 

" It often happened that I had to wake Moltke and 
go with him to the King when particularly important 
news arrived. On such occasions I had the right to 
call my old master up at any hour of the night. After 
passing through all the guards and other obstacles to 
reach Moltke, I had only to wait five, or, at the most, 
ten minutes. Then he was ready : washed, faultlessly 
dressed according to regulation, with even his boots 

In Lighter Vein 267 

freshly polished. Once it happened that the King said 
to me when we went to him, ' What ! a white tie so 
early in the morning V 'At your Majesty's service,' 
I replied ; ' but it dates from yesterday.' It was about 
this time that I heard the only joke which ever fell 
from Moltke's lips. It was indeed a most critical time : 
the last few days before our invasion of Bohemia and 
Saxony. I had received news which made an earlier 
commencement of the struggle seem advisable, so 
I begged Moltke to come to me, and asked him if we 
could start twenty-four hours earlier than had been fixed. 
In reply he asked for paper and pencil, and went into 
the next room. After about a quarter of an hour he 
returned and said, ' Yes, it is possible.' To be able to 
effect this had the same influence on him as a glass of 
champagne would have on one of us ; in other words, the 
bloodthirsty creature became so joyful that from very 
light-heartedness he made, I believe, the only joke of his 
life. He had grasped the door-knob ready to depart, 
but turned to me again and said, * Do you know that 
the Saxons have blown up the bridge over the Elbe at 
Dresden ? ' ' Oh, that is indeed bad news ! ' said I. 
' With water,' * added Moltke, and promptly departed. 
Yes, yes ; his was quite a different nature to mine. 
He never was a runaway." 

In the old Frankfort days Bismarck did eventually 
arrive at a fair understanding with Count Thun, 
though the latter, from the first, sought to lord it over 
his colleague by receiving him in his shirt-sleeves. With 
ready wit the Prussian remarked, " Your Excellency is 

* A play on the words gesprengt (blown up) and betprengt 

268 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

quite right ; it is terribly hot," and, taking off his coat, 
sat down beside his would-be master. 

During the halt of the Eoyal headquarters-staff at 
Mayence, in August, 1870, a barber was summoned to 
the Chancellor's quarters. On entering the room the 
man saw Bismarck in an easy chair, smoking his " long " 
pipe, and reading his correspondence. Going up to 
the astonished barber the Chancellor said the one word 
"Shave," put his pipe away, sat down and placed a 
napkin round his neck. The barber completed his 
work in absolute silence — mirabile clictu ! — and was dis- 
missed -s^ith, " Again to-morrow." This silent inter- 
view was repeated day by day until the day of his 
departure, when the Chancellor jokingly inquired, 
"You will accept Prussian money in payment?" 
" Certainly, your Excellency ; in that respect I'm like 
a Prussian: I take what I can get," which repartee 
gained him six thalers and a hearty laugh from 

Eeference was once made to Bismarck's intercepted 
" Sedan " letter to his wife, which was published in fac- 
simile by the Figaro. " Yes," said Bismarck ; " I was 
more fortunate than many others, whose letters were 
intercepted during the war ; my letter might be made 
public, and so it was eventually read by her to whom it 
was addressed. In the year 1866 a whole Saxon post 
was brought to me, amongst others a letter of a Saxon 
Prince. I had to 'open it. The Saxons had just been 
defeated ; the Prussians were victorious everywhere, and 
yet the letter contained a scathing criticism of the 
Prussian troops . . . 'the fellows can't even shoot.' 
... I sealed it up again without taking a copy." 

In Lighter Vein 269 

During the subsequent course of the conversation the 
Prince observed, " When such a new Minister has got 
his first few crachats (stars) and stands in front of a 
looking-glass, he slaps himself on his chest and says, 
' You really are a very fine fellowj ' and from that 
moment he knows everything better than any one 

At dinner at Eethel, on September 4, 1870, Bismarck 
observed to his neighbour. Count Frederick Beust, 
that he had had an interview with Napoleon on the 
day after Sedan, whilst Moltke was arranging with 
Wimpffen for the surrender of Sedan. As it would 
have been bad taste to discuss politics at this meeting, 
the conversation rather resembled a talk with " a young 
girl with whom one dances the cotillon for the first 
time, and with whom one is not well acquainted." 

Count Beust, Aide-de-camp to the Grand Duke of 
Saxe-Weimar, congratulated Bismarck at Versailles, on 
January 15, 1871, on the excellent relations existing 
between the German Chancellor and his namesake. 
Count Beust, the Austrian Minister. " Yes," said Bis- 
marck, " that is all very well ; but it always reminds 
me of the story of the slater who, in falling from a 
tower, remarked as he passed each story, * All's well 
so far.' " 

Later on, when dessert was being passed round, 
Bismarck observed, " We should not have been tempted 
by apples had we been in Adam's place ; it would have 
had to be oysters or boar's head at the very least." 

It was in Madame Jesse's house at Versailles that 
Bismarck gave utterance to a multitude of oUter dicta 
regarding the very necessary occupations of eating and 

270 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

drinking. He admitted smilingly that his appetite 
was hereditary. " In our family we are all large eaters. 
If there were many of the same capacity in the country 
the State could not exist; I should emigrate. ... I 
admit that I eat too much, or rather too much at 
one time. I cannot rid myself of the folly of having 
only one meal in the day. Formerly it was even worse, 
for then I only drank tea in the early morning and 
ate nothing at all until 5 p.m., though I smoked in- 
cessantly, and that did me a great deal of harm. By 
doctor's advice I now eat at least two eggs in the 
morning and smoke but little. But I am to have 
several meals — to-day one and a half beefsteaks and a 
few slices of pheasant. That sounds rather much, but 
it is not much, for as a rule it is my only meal. I 
breakfast, it is true, but the meal only consists of two eggs 
and a cup of tea without milk. After that nothing till 
the evening. If I eat a quantity then I am like a boa 
constrictor, but I cannot sleep." 

Looking at the menu one day he laughingly remarked, 
" There's always one dish too many. I am resolved to 
ruin my digestion with duck and olives, and now there 
is Rheinfelder ham, of which I must now eat too much 
for fear of not getting my share (the Chancellor was 
absent from breakfast that day, December 22, 1870), 
and there is also wild boar from Varzin." Ham 
seems to have been a favourite dish of the Chancellor, 
for on another occasion when he was to dine with the 
Crown Prince, he remained at his own table until the 
Varzin ham was brought in, having told the footman, 
"Bring it in whilst I am here; it must be consumed 
with my co-operation — with thoughts of home." 


In Lighter Vein 271 

The Prince was also very fond of hard-boiled eggs, 
though in 1870 he could not manage more than three, 
whilst formerly he was able to eat eleven at one time. 
Count Bismarck-Bohlen then observed that he had once 
eaten fifteen plover's eggs. "I am ashamed," replied 
Bismarck, " to say what my performances have been in 
that respect." No doubt the "loyal men of Jever " 
could have given him an honourable testimonial in 
the matter. 

The appearance of carp on the table one day gave 
the Chancellor an occasion to discuss the merits and 
demerits of the finny tribe. Marena and trout were his 
favourites amongst fresh-water fish, but on the whole 
he preferred their ocean brethren, especially the cod. 
"But a well-smoked flounder is also not bad, and I 
should not like to see even the common herring de- 
spised when it is fresh." About oysters he said, " In 
my young days I did as great a service to the inhabi- 
tants of Aix-la-Chapelle as Ceres did to humanity by 
the invention of agriculture ; that is, by teaching them 
how to roast oysters." The Chancellor's receipt ran 
thus, " Sprinkle the oysters with grated Parmesan and 
bread crumbs, and roast them in their shells over a 
clear fire." 

Bismarck recalled with pleasure the flavour of fresh 
lampreys, and also praised the Elbe salmon, which he 
declared was "the correct mean between the Baltic 
and the Khine salmon, which is too fat to suit me." 
The next topic was bankers' dinners, " where a dish is 
not considered good unless it is expensive; carp, for 
instance, is despised because it is a comparatively cheap 
fish in Berlin. Pike-perch is preferred because it is 

272 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

difficult to transport. Besides I do not care for it, and 
I think as little of muraena — the meat is too soft. On 
the other hand, I could eat marenas every day, in fact 
I almost prefer them to trout, which I only like when 
they are medium-sized, about half a pound in weight. 
There is not much to be said in praise of the large ones, 
which it was customary to serve at the Frankfort dinners. 
They generally come from the Heidelberg Wolfsbrunnen, 
and are expensive enough, so they must appear on the 

Good mutton and brisket of beef were amongst the 
favourite dishes of the Prince's table, whilst fillet and 
roast beef were not much relished. Of hares he ob- 
served, " A French hare is really nothing in comparison 
to a Pomeranian hare ; it does not taste like game at all. 
How different are our hares which get their good flavour 
from heather and thyme." 

At the time the Parisians were compelled to turn to 
horses and other animals for their food, Bismarck in- 
quired one day at table, " Is that du cheval ? " and on 
receiving the answer that it was honest ox, continued, 
" It is curious that one does not eat horse-flesh unless 
compelled to, like the people in Paris who soon will 
have little else to eat. The probable reason is because 
the horse is more akin to us than other animals. As a 
rider, we are, as it were, a part of it. It's the same with 
the dog. Bu chien is said to taste quite nice, and yet we 
* don't eat it. Thd more familiar a thing is to us the less 
we like to eat it. It must be very disgusting to eat 
monkeys, whose hands look human ! Neither does one 
care to eat carnivora — animals of prey, wolves, lions, even 
bears ; though the latter live less on flesh than on plants. 

In Lighter Vein 273 

I do not even like to eat a chicken that has been fed 
on meat — not even its eggs." 

Bismarck's favourite fruit were cherries, and blue 
plums stood next in his estimation. As the Gruyere 
was being handed round, some one asked the Chancellor 
whether cheese and wine went well together. " Different 
kinds to different wines," was the reply ; " sharp tasting 
cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Dutch cheese, do not, but 
others certainly do. At the time when there was much 
drinking in Pomerania, two centuries ago, the Eammin 
family were the hardest drinkers. One of them got 
some wine from Stettin which he did not care about, 
and so he complained to the wine merchant. He 
received the following reply, 'Eat cheese with your 
wine, Herr von Eammin; the wine will then taste 
the same in Eammin as it does in Stettin.'" This 
anecdote led to the subject of drinks in general. 
When the Chancellor and his staff were in St. Avoid, 
the possibility of finding themselves without beer was 
mooted, but Bismarck thought that would not be a 
great loss. "The vastly increasing consumption of beer 
is to be deprecated. Beer makes a man stupid, lazy, 
and incapable. It is the cause of all the democratic 
political discussions to which men listen. A good 
corn-brandy would be preferable." A glass of brandy 
at dinner reminded the Chancellor of the following 
dictum : " Lately — if I am not mistaken it was at 
Ferrieres — a general enunciated the following maxim 
regarding the beverages of mankind : claret for children, 
champagne for men, brandy for generals." One day 
Count Bismarck-Bohlen, who looked after the com- 
missariat of the Chancellor's suite, reported. No more 


274 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

brandy ! The Chancellor replied, " Telegraph at once, 
' Old Nordhauser (corn-brandy) quite indispensable at 
headquarters ; send two jars immediately.' " 

Here it may be mentioned that Count Moltke was 
not only a great general, but also a talented inventor 
of new drinks. After a day's shooting with Bismarck, 
in Baron Eothschild's copses, the Chief of the Staff 
brewed a new kind of punch for the company out of 
champagne, hot tea and sherry. 

" In earlier days," so the Chancellor related at Ver- 
sailles, " I was at the Letzlingen hunt, under Frederick 
William IV., and a ' trick ' flagon, dating from the time 
of Frederick William I., was used. It was a hart's horn, 
holding about three-quarters of a bottle, and shaped so 
that although one could not place one's lips in direct 
contact with the hollow part, it had to be emptied without 
spilling a drop. The wine was very cold, but I drank 
it off, and my white waistcoat did not even show one 
drop spilt. The company opened their eyes, whilst I 
called out, 'Give me another!' But the King, who 
was visibly annoyed at my success, exclaimed, 'No, 
this must not be ! ' And so I gave it up. A capacity 
for liquor was a necessary qualification for the diplo- 
matic service in those days. Diplomats drank the weak 
heads under the table, questioned them on important 
matters they wanted to know, and then made them 
agree to all sorts of impossible things. Sometimes the 
victim had to sign documents there and then, and when 
sober again had no idea how he had come to do so." 

Nor did Bismarck despise tea, especially in the 
evening during his leisure hours, when among his staff. 
A few cups of tea with cognac he declared were good 

In Lighter Vein 275 

for the health, and many a tankard of cold tea formed 
his refreshment at night. 

The following documents illustrate a passage of arms 
with a German Editor. 

" November 27, 1878. 

"To Editor Stein, in Magdebueg. 

" The Imperial Chancellor has commissioned 
me to inform you that, owing to your letter of the 26th 
inst., he is prepared to withdraw from the prosecution 
against you. "Will you therefore name the Court which 
has cognisance of this matter ? 

"Count Bismarck, 

" Court Assessor." 

The letter in question ran as follows : — 

" To His Serene Highness Prince Bismarck, at 

" Magdeburg, November 26, 1878. 

" Most Serene Highness ! Puissant Chancellor 
of the Empire, 

" Your Serene Highness has summoned me 
on account of an article of mine in the Potsdamer 
Zeitung, 'The Crown Prince as Imperial Chancellor.* 
I did not intend to insult your Serene Highness. Did 
I not once call you ' My dear Otto ' in a letter, thereby 
paying you the highest honour it is possible to pay to so 
high-placed and famous a man ? But now I consider that 
you have come to the end of your strength, which you 
have sacrificed in the service of the Fatherland. In 
your place thousands of others would have retired long 

276 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

ago, for you are nothing but a slave to your exhausting 
position, whereas you might live at your ease amongst 
your memories, as a respected private gentleman. Beatus 
ille qui procul negotiis. I had to do six weeks in prison 
for Herr Camphausen (whom I attacked far more sharply 
than your Serene Highness) ; it was the saddest time of 
my life, and I would not like to go through it again. I 
therefore beg most humbly that you will withdraw from 
the prosecution. Will your Serene Highness consider 
the enclosed article, ' The Latest about Prince Bismarck,' 
as a counterblast ? 

" With the greatest admiration, 

" Your Serene Highness's most humble servant, 
" JoHANN Friedkich Stein, Senior, 


Fortunately for Bismarck the following letter did not 
reach him, owing to the precautions taken in dealing 
with postal packages despatched from infected areas. 

"Gracious Sir, 

"Your Serene Highness will find in this 
envelope a lock of hair and two pieces of stuff, which 
come from a so-called plague-patient in the now 
notorious village of Wetljanka, who died in my presence 
on the 20th of January, 1879. The piece of linen was 
cut from the shirt which the deceased wore on his body 
during the tw6nty-two hours of his illness. The piece 
of cloth is from his counterpane. The articles in ques- 
tion have been carefully shut up since the 20th in a 
hermetically sealed capsule in order that the secretions 
with which they are impregnated may be preserved as 

In Lighter Vein 277 

far as possible. I permit myself to send your Serene 
Highness the above-named articles in the hope that 
they may contribute in dissipating the exaggerated 
anxiety which the Asiatic plague has evoked in Ger- 
many. If, as I am convinced, your Serene Highness 
does not feel any discomfort after receipt of the enclosed 
(the effects can be ascertained after the lapse of forty- 
eight hours), this argument will be decisive. 
" I have the honour, etc., 

"N. A., Citizen of Wetljanka." 

On the occasion of a visit to Jena, Bismarck was 
reminded at lunch by Professor Delbriick of a saying of 
his, " that it is easier to go through the world without 
feminine baggage." 

The Prince in reply seized the opportunity to explain 
his meaning. 

" I am very grateful to the last speaker for the whole 
of his toast, with the exception of his quotation about 
feminine baggage. I think there must be some mis- 
understanding. If I made use of the above-mentioned 
expression I could only have meant the ' excess weight ' 
which one has to fear when one travels with ladies 
(laughter). ' Free luggage ' will always be very agree- 
able. Moreover, I am by no means desirous of recom- 
mending celibacy, since I am far too great an admirer 
of the feminine sex for State, military, and legal reasons. 

" In order to rid myself the more effectually of such 
a suspicion, I beg you all to drink with me to the health 
of the ladies present, both married and single. May 
they assist in carrying the memory of to-day to their 
homes, and impressing it on their children. To-day's 

278 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

proofs of sympathy would have been incomplete without 
the ladies. The fact that the cordial reception given 
me from Dresden to Jena meets with approval from 
the ladies is to me significant of the endurance of 
the German Empire (applause). That which our women 
adopt will be defended by our children; if they 
are girls, in the family circle ; if they are men, on the 
battlefield, if needs be. With this interpretation to the 
quotation, I drink to the health of the ladies, as a 
politician and as an admirer of the fair sex." 

In order to show the feeling of insecurity of the Czar 
of all the Eussias amongst his subjects. Prince Bismarck 
related the following anecdote of the Emperor Nicholas. 

The Court physician had prescribed massage for some 
ailment of the Czar, who however was unable to find a 
single person in his entourage to whom he cared 
to entrust the task. At his wits' end, he at last 
applied to Frederick William IV. for a few non-com- 
missioned officers of the Prussian Guard; these were 
sent, and returned to Berlin after the completion of the 
rubbing " cure," heavily laden with presents. " So long 
as I can look my Eussians in the face everything is 
well," Nicholas is reported to have said, " but I will not 
risk letting them work away at my back ! " 

It was the Chancellor's custom to invite the various 
officials of Kissingen to dinner towards the end of his 
annual visit, and, amongst those thus honoured was the 
postmaster (since deceased), who rejoiced in a very pro- 
nounced " corporation." Prince Bismarck, who esteemed 
the worthy postmaster very highly, was struck by the 
marked development of this bodily characteristic, aaid 
inquired solicitously after his health. 

In Lighter Vein 279 

The flattered postmaster thanked the Prince for his 
kind inquuy. 

" To judge from your looks, you must have flourished 
especially of late years ; but you do not appear to have 
adopted the right cure," the Prince remarked with a 

" Oh yes, your Highness ! I not only go in for the 
cure, but I have also employed many other means ; and 
up to now nothing has done me any good." 

" Well, I can tell you of a remedy as simple as it is 
sure, and which cannot fail to be of service." 

" May I ask your Highness to tell me what it is ? I 
would ever be grateful for it," replied the postmaster. 

The curiosity of the remainder of the luncheon party 
had been aroused by this conversation, and everybody 
listened attentively to hear of the Chancellor's remedy. 

" The remedy is not only very simple, but it is also 
inexpensive — you need only take over the duties of 
one of your rural postmen for four weeks, and you 
will surely be rid of your burden." The postmaster, 
though at first rather taken aback, joined heartily in 
the burst of laughter at his own expense. 
.y'^ A Kissingen doctor, who also received an invitation 
every year, did not fare much better than his fellow- 

" I am not feeling very well after the Eakoczy water 
which I drank early this morning," complained the Prince. 

"Your Highness had better drink one glass less 
to-morrow ; that will certainly relieve you," ordered the 

" That will hardly be possible," quoth Bismarck. 

" And why will that not be possible, your Highness ? " 

28o Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

" For the simple reason that I only drank half a glass 
this morning," retorted the Prince with a smile. 

Princess Bismarck was on one occasion unwell at 

Varzin, and a certain Doctor B was consulted. 

Though the Princess's condition was by no means 
serious, the doctor was asked to stay the day and dine. 
Perhaps the Yarzin wine was a little stronger than he 
was accustomed to, for he narrated the following " true " 
story : " A peasant lad was once so severely wounded at 
a fight in a neighbouring village, that the top of his 
skull was completely shattered and the whole of the 
brain exposed. I was soon at hand, and used no fewer 
than twenty-five stitches, with which, after a fashion, 
I mended his head ; thanks to my skill, however, he was 
able to resume w^ork in three days' time." 

On repeating this veracious story on one occasion, 
Prince Bismarck paused and inquired whether any 
of his guests happened to be a town councillor, for in 
that case he would not be able to finish the story. As 
every one denied the soft impeachment, the Prince con- 
tinued : " Of course I pretended to have no doubt as to 

the truth of Doctor B 's story, and only said, * Well, 

my dear doctor, let me tell you another story which is 
as true as yours. A man once went to a well-known 
Berlin surgeon and complained of terrible headaches 
which he could not get rid of. " Oh, we can easily help 
you," said the celebrated operator; "your complaint is due 
to the brain, which seems to be deficient in some way." 
He then loosened the top of his skull, removed the brain, 
and said to him, " There, you won't be troubled with any 
more pains ; come again in a few days and you can have 
your brain put back readjusted." The good man went 

In Lighter Vein 281 

home very much relieved and pleased. A few days 
passed, and as the man did not return, the surgeon sent 
a message to him that it was high time to come and 
fetch his brain. The man sent back word to the surgeon, 
" I have since become a town councillor, and have no 

further use for a brain." ' Though Doctor B joined 

in the laugh, he nevertheless hurried away as soon as 
dinner was over, and never again told me any true 

In the early winter months of 1892, Bismarck enter- 
tained his guests at Varzin with many an amusing tale. 

" At the time I possessed no other decoration than 
the Medal for Saving Life, the ribbon of which exactly 
resembles that of the Fourth Class of the Eed Eagle. I 
was one day walking quickly towards the station when 
a street-boy called to me, ' Kann ick Ihnen nich eene 
Droschke besorjen, Herr Baurat ? ' (Can't I get you a 
cab, Mr. Buildings Inspector ?)." 

" After I had attained the rank of major, I once went 
out in uniform, when a policeman, thinking I was a 
major in active service, begged me to disperse a 
crowd which blocked the traffic, and with which he was 
unable to cope. I readily did so, but as he seemed to 
contemplate further similar requests, I explained to him, 
that I was sorry to be also the President of the Prussian 
Ministry, and as such could not place myself any longer 
at the disposal of a policeman. 

" Later on I even rose to the rank of general, and one 
day passed a policeman in Berlin who did not salute me. 
'Don't you salute officers?' I asked him. 'Oh yes, 
sir,' he replied in the innocence of his heart ; ' but only 
superior officers.' ' Well, don't you count generals as 

282 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

superior officers, my good man ? ' ' Certainly ; but you 
are not one.' ' Perhaps you don't know that I am 
the (Imperial Chancellor ? ' ' No, how should I know 
that ? ' he exclaimed ; ' I have only just been trans- 
ferred to Berlin from the extreme East.' I was so 
rejoiced to find that at last there was somebody in 
Berlin who did not know me, that I did not report the 
man ! " 

"During the war, the Grand Duke of Oldenburg 
called at Eothschild's chateau of Terrieres to pay me a 
visit. 'What does he want here?' said my smartest 
servant to another. ' Has he been announced ? ' " 

Turning to his wife, Bismarck asked,!" Do you remem- 
ber our excellent Mecklenburg servant, Johanna ? " 

The Princess nodded. 

" Well, he was for a time with a West Prussian in 
my service," continued the Prince, turning to the com- 
pany. " One day I heard the two having a lively 
argument in the hall, and indulging in some sharp 
sallies. At last my West Prussian played his highest 
trump by calling out contemptuously to the Mecklen- 
burger, 'What does he want— he hasn't even got a 
King ' " [Mecklenburg being only a Grand Duchy]. 

In speaking of his dogs, Sultan and Tyras, Bismarck 
observed of the former, " When I was away from home 
he looked for me everywhere in deep dejection. At 
last to comfort himself he seized my white military cap 
and my deerskin gloves, carried them in his mouth to 
my study, and remained there with his nose on my 
things until I returned. Old Tyras too was very intel- 
ligent and faithful. In going to the Eeichstag I used 
to walk through the garden behind the Chancellor's 

In Lighter Vein 283 

palace, opened the gate to the Kouiggratz Strasse, and 
had only to turn to Tyras and say the word ' Eeichstag.' 
The dog at once hung his head and tail and retired 
dejectedly. On one occasion I left my stick, which I 
could not take with me into the street as I was in 
uniform, on the inner wall of the garden before passing 
tlirough ithe gate. After four hours I returned from 
the Eeichstag. Tyras did not, as usual, meet me as 
I entered the house, and I asked the policeman where 
the dog was. * He has been standing for four hours at 
the garden wall over there and won't let any one come 
near your Highness's stick ! ' " 

"Another time I went for a walk with Tyras in 
Varzin, and saw a load of wood lying on a cart which I 
thought had been stolen, as it had been freshly cut. 
I ordered the dog to remain with the cart, and departed 
to fetch a man who could explain the matter. On 
looking back I saw that Tyras was quietly slinking 
after me. I turned back and laid a glove on the cart. 
Tyras then remained there as if rooted to the spot." 

In discussing old times in Berlin, the Prince mentioned 
a very well-known character, Cerf, formerly director of 
the theatre. One of his peculiarities was his inability 
to read. An " urgent " letter was one day handed to 
him at dinner with a request for an immediate answer. 
Cerf looked at the address for a minute, recognized the 
handwriting and handed the missive to his neighbour 
with the remark, " Aha, this is from that funny fellow X. 
I cannot read his writing ; will you kindly see what he 
really wants of me ? " 

On another occasion one of Cerf s guests asked the 
following riddle at table : " The first is our host, the 

284 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

second is the name of our hostess, and the whole is to 
be found on this table." Cerf was indignant that such 
a riddle should be asked at his table, for the solution 
was obviously " Assiette." His wife's name was Jette 
and he was not at all grateful for the other half of 
the word. The riddle-poser, whose orthography was not 
his strongest point, then elaborately explained that he 
had not meant " assiette " at all, but that the correct 
answer was Oerjiette (serviette). 

" As the American Ambassador, Mr. Washburne, had 
protected the Germans in Paris during the French war, 
we wanted to present him with a testimonial, therefore I 
had a Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown made of a 
more costly pattern than had probably ever been manu- 
factured before. The brilliants alone cost 1000 friedrichs 
d'or. But before the Emperor conferred it on him, I 
took the precaution to ask again if he would accept the 
order, and received the reply that it would have to go to 
the Washington Museum, as he would not be allowed to 
wear it. As this was not much to my liking we kept it 
for the time being, and inquired by what other means we 
could show him our gratitude. In reply he begged that 
I should sit to an American artist for my portrait. 
The latter arrived, and so I had to sacrifice myself on 
the altar of my country and allow myself to be painted. 
The artist, in real American fashion, did a very good 
stroke of business by painting three portraits of me at 
the same time." 

Bismarck and Bancroft were dining one day with Herr 
von der Heydt, who prided himself on the quantity and 
quality of the food offered to his guests. In those days 
(1868) Bismarck was still in possession of his marvellous 

In Lighter Vein 285 

appetite. Bancroft, at first amazed, became at last 
anxious on seeing his friend twice partake largely of the 
first courses. "Dear Count," he remarked, with a 
world of anxiety in his voice, " I believe there is more 
to come ! " "I should hope so," replied Bismarck, joy- 
fully, and renewed the terrifying practice at the next 

In discussing the characteristics of the various nations 
in January, 1896, at Friedrichsruh, the Chancellor 
remarked, "Bancroft always seemed to me to be the 
ideal American Ambassador.: His cultured repose of 
manner struck me all the more because one of his 
predecessors had caused me constant annoyance owing 
to the inconsiderate behaviour of his wife. At the 
receptions of the diplomatic corps she invariably took 
up a position in the space reserved for the passage 
of Eoyalty. She stood like a general in front of the 
diplomatic battle array. One chamberlain after another 
endeavoured to lead her back to her place in the line, 
but she withstood all individual assaults, and it required 
an army of chamberlains, advancing in battle order, to 
force her to retire." 

This military figure of speech brought the conversa- 
tion round to the Prince's position in the army, and the 
cuirass presented to him by the Emperor (William II.), 
which was then handed round for inspection. The 
Prince related that he had hardly ever worn a cuirass, 
and would; therefore, only wear this one when he had 
to submit to the force of circumstances. He found it 
an uncomfortable thing to wear. " The last time I 
dined at the Palace in Berlin some six or seven officers 
of my regiment were present, and had to wear their 

286 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

cuirasses during the two or three hours which dinner 
lasted. I sympathized with them all the more because 
I knew that I was the cause of what to me seemed 
to be torture." 

Sonae one then mentioned that the Emperor had also 
dined in a cuirass at Friedrichsruh. The Prince replied, 
" Emperors must and can do many things that we must 
not and cannot." 

Part of this conversation had been sustained in 
English, which language the Chancellor had acquired 
as a young man. He then related the following story, 
which occurred during his period in the service : — 

" One day I returned, dusty and dirty after my tour 
of duty, direct to the hotel, where my seat at table was 
next to those of an English family which had arrived 
that day, and they began to discuss my probable posi- 
tion by my not very tidy exterior. One of the ladies 
thought it impossible for me to be an officer, and 
yet my hand was not that of a private. I listened to 
the discussion in silence. Suddenly the lady reached 
for a mustard-pot. As she was too far from it, I handed 
it to her and said i» my best English, ' It is empty ; 
if you wish for another, I will ask the waiter to get 
you a full one.* Tableau ! " 

A guest at Friedrichsruh (March, 1898) expressed his 
astonishment at the large number of pipes which the 
Prince was able to smoke with comfort, whereupon Bis- 
marck remarked that he had once had a conversation 
with an old Hanoverian officer, who was stationed in a 
fairly lonely post on the frontier. In reply to a query 
whether he paid many visits to the landed gentry in the 
neighbourhood, the officer replied — 

In Lighter Vein 287 

" No, we never visit them." 

" "Well, then, do you play much at cards ? " 

" No, we don't play cards here/ 

" Do you drink, then ? " 

"No, we don't drink either." 

'' Well, what do you do when you are off 
duty ? " 

" Always smoke ! " was the classic answer. 

" Every great man," observed the Chancellor, " seems 
to have some flaw or other, just as a good apple has its 

" Alexander von Humboldt's demeanour was at times 
undignified ; he was not respected at Court, though I was 
one of the few who treated him politely. He used to 
wait in the ante-room of King Frederick William IV. 
at Potsdam and at Sans Souci for hours, whether he 
received a summons or not. If the King was not 
inclined to see him, he drove back to Berlin after hours 
of waiting. Old Field-Marshal Wrangel, who one day 
showed some of the ofi&cers belonging to his East 
Prussian Kegiment round Potsdam and took them 
everywhere, went also to Sans Souci and saw Humboldt 
as usual in the ante-chamber. Wrangel then said to 
his officers, *You have seen His Majesty's Chinaman 
and negro. I shall now show you the King's universal 
sage.' Humboldt quickly arose from his armchair and 
bowed. Clapping him on the shoulder, Wrangel said, 
'Well, my universal sagelet, how are you?' What 
Humboldt did at the Court was always a mystery to 
me. The x^dte defoie gras, with which he heaped up his 
plate, could not have been his object, for he was rich 
enough to be able to eat it at home. Afterwards he 

288 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

used to go to Varnhagen and talk scandal about the 
Court and its habitues'' 

Count Eantzau one evening mentioned that old King 
Leopold of Belgium often used to give little parties at 
the commencement of his reign. At one of these an 
unceremonious Belgian dug him in the ribs, a pro- 
ceeding not unknown in convivial circles ; this, how- 
ever, led to the abandonment of such parties. " Well, 
that was pretty cool," said Bismarck. " I should have 
hit the person concerned on the nose and said, 'Pass 
the toast.' " 

Bismarck then told the following anecdote : " A new 
official who wanted to present himself to Minister May- 
bach, met him on the stairs of the office and said, 
' Have I the pleasure of addressing Herr Maybach ? * 
To which the latter replied, ' My name is Maybach, but 
there is no question of " pleasure " about it ! '" 

On hearing of a complaint about the quality of 
Stettin wine, Bismarck said, " Yes ! The conditions 
of the wine trade in Stettin are curious ; more claret is 
exported from there than is imported; the difference 
probably is made up from the ditches of the fortress or 

At dinner one day Bismarck called for some Hun- 
garian wine that Count Andrassy had sent him on 
relinquishing office. "In writing to thank him," 
observed the Prince, " I added that I hoped he would 
often come into and go out of office, and send me sixty 
bottles of wine on each occasion." 

" Soldiers have a much easier task than diplomatists ; 
they receive their instructions, and know exactly how far 
they have to command and obey. I have known many 

In Lighter Vein 289 

clever and many stupid generals, but they never, or at 
least very rarely, were wanting in that tact which civilians 
so often lack. I think this must be due to a feelincr of 
comradeship, which also shows itself in their outward 
demeanour. For instance, in the 1st Guards, this is 
nothing less than marvellous. In society you never 
hoar one of them sneezing differently from the other ; 
it is the same throughout the army, and this is the 
reason why all old generals resemble each other." 

Shortly after the conclusion of the Bohemian cam- 
paign, a highly placed but not very gifted general gave 
a grand dinner to some distinguished friends, officers 
and politicians, Bismarck included. The dinner was 
served in a large hall, lavishly decorated with antlers, 
buffalo horns, and other sporting trophies. When Bis- 
marck was about to sit down, he observed to his neigh- 
bour who had distinguished himself in the late 
campaign, at the same time drawing his attention to a 
gigantic trophy of ure-ox horns, "It seems. Excel- 
lency, as if we were dining to-day amongst the family 
portraits of our worthy host." 

■^ " I was at the University with a certain Hesse of 
Altona, on whom we once played a practical joke. We 
cleared out his room and distributed his books and all 
his furniture on the stairs, and opened the novel * Schilf 
Levinche' at the passage, 'You shall perish like the 
black soul of the black adder,' etc. He took pro- 
ceedings against me : every one laughed at my defence 
before the University judge when I repeated all this 
stuff out of the book, and employed only such phrases 
as the above. Finally I got off with a slight repii- 


290 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

Prince Bismarck was once asked whether he would 
have preferred any other education to that of a Prussian 
" gymnasium." 

" Where should that have been ? " inquired the Prince ; 
" in France, in Switzerland, or at a school in a small 
German State ? I am greatly in favour of a classical 
education, and I regret that French should now be 
taught at the expense of Latin. But in the develop- 
ment of character much depends on the period and the 
surroundings. I left the Gymnasium an Atheist and 
Eepublican. We believed jm Plato. I always had a 
strong passion for liberty and equality. Indeed, I 
remember quite distinctly, when I was ten years old, 
that one of my school-fellows was put under the pump in 
the playground, and that the idea then struck me, Why 
shouldn't we some day attempt the same with our 
master, for united we should have the power to do so. 
On another occasion, when our ostler was called to the 
reserve, I wondered why the King, one single man, 
should have the power not only to call up people against 
their will, but also to enforce obedience." 

In discussing the activity of Privy Councillors, Bis- 
marck said, " We shall be ruined by examinations ; the 
majority of those who pass them are mentally so run 
down that they are incapable of any initiative ever 
afterwards. They take up a negative attitude towards 
everything that is submitted to them, and, what is 
worst of all, th^y have a great opinion of their capa- 
bilities because they once passed all their examinations 

The extreme care exercised by the Prince regarding 
his beloved trees at Yarzin is shown by the following 

In Lighter Vein 291 

occurrence. During a drive one day he noticed that 
a workman engaged in laying a telegraph wire was coolly 
sawing the branches off a tree because they were in his 
way. Annoyed by such sacrilege, Bismarck stopped 
and severely reprimanded the man, who excused him- 
seK by saying it was done in accordance with the 
engineer's instructions. The Prince found out the 
engineer's name, and sent word that he was to come to 
the manor at once. Somewhat anxious about the possible 
result of the unsought-for interview, the engineer duly 
presented himself before the Iron Chancellor. Now, it 
happened that this particular engineer was of gigantic 
build both in height and breadth. Bismarck's first 
question was, " What regiment did you serve in ? " " In 
the Guards, your Highness." "Flank file?" "Yes, 
your Highness." "Eank?" "Eetired sergeant." A 
few more military questions followed before the Prince 
came to the real cause of the interview, when the 
engineer candidly admitted his offence. The Prince 
was appeased and invited his visitor to lunch, " in 
order to talk about the Service." 

The Prince was always unwilling to have a tree cut 
down, and was really grieved when he had to issue 
orders for the removal of one of his " friends." One day 
a Danish forester in his service rushed up to him whilst 
he was out riding, and exclaimed in his Danish dialect, 
" I must make a confession. I have passed over a tree ; 
it was marked to be cut down, but it was seu soil 
(so beautiful), and so I let it stand." " Well," replied 
Bismarck, " if it is seu son, you may leave it standing 
in peace ! " 

Mr. John Booth had repeatedly urged the Prince to 

292 Conversations with Prince Bismarck 

thin out some plantations which had grown too dense, 
but the necessary action had not been taken. Booth 
thus describes the fate of another attempt. 

"I led the conversation towards that topic as 
soon as the soup was handed round. Bismarck, in 
a loud voice, causing all conversation to cease, 
said, ' My plantation is not to be touched ; it is a 
forest-plantation, and is to grow like a forest.' Know- 
ing that I was in the right, I did not wish to be 
trumped like that, and remarked firmly yet gently, ' I 
beg your Highness's pardon, it is a protective- and 
not a forest-plantation — to afford you protection from 
the west wind. If nothing is done, the interior and 
lower portions of the plantation will become bare, and 
the purpose of its existence will not be fulfilled. It is, 
I venture to repeat, a protective- and not a forest- 
plantation.' The Prince left my remonstrances unan- 
swered, and the subject was not pursued for the time 
being. But whilst we were smoking after dinner 
he had the matter explained to him again. ... As I 
was taking my leave, Bismarck stood up, took both my 
hands, and said with his sunniest smile, ' Dear Mr. 
Booth, I have had to allow my own doctor to tyrannize 
over me so much of late, that I must needs allow my 
tree-doctor to do the same.' " 

^ Even the neuralgic pains to which the Prince was a 
martyr were powerless to repress his humour. Once he 
complained to a 'friend on leaving the luncheon-table 
with its display of wine-bottles, " Two things have 
afforded me especial pleasure in life — politics and wine. 
Politics I may not touch any more, and now Schweninger 
has forbidden wine." 

In Lighter Vein 293 

Bismarck's delight in a good glass of wine is shown 
by another jest that fell from his lips only a few weeks 
before his death. " I would willingly," said he, with a 
melancholy smile, " leave everything to my heirs — my 
estates, my money, but I grudge them my wine-cellar." 


Albrecht of Prussia, Prince, 

Alexander II. of Russia, 66, 

Alexander III. of Russia, 156 
Alexander of Battenberg, 145, 

Alsace, 19, 49, 97, 213 
America, 37, 111, 171, 239 
Andrassy, Count, 219, 220, 288 
Arapoflf, 109 
Amim, Count Harry, 69, 101, 

102, 248, 249, 250 
Augusta, Empress and Queen, 

184, 186 
Austria-Hungary, 80-82, 87, 88, 

90-92, 140, 142, 145, 146, 199, 

213, 219, 224, 227 


Bagamoyo, 150, 151 
Bamberger, Ludwig, 2, 3 
Bancroft, Mr., 284 
Bavaria, 3, 55, 93, 119-125, 126, 

130, 133, 137-140, 194, 214 
Bazaine, Marshal, 14, 18, 29, 35 
Beaconsfield, Lord, 228 

Beethoven, 151 

Belfort, 49, 52, 53, 67 

Belgium, 81, 86, 239 

Benedetti, Count, 3, 96, 213 

Benningsen, von, 171 

Berlin Congress, 108 

Beust, Count, 93, 219, 265 

Bewer, Max, 147 

Biarritz, 75, 76, 80, 81, 84 

Bismarck, Count Herbert, 109, 
110, 174, 237, 260 

Bismarck, Count William, 150, 

Bismarck, Countess Marie, 84, 

Bismarck, Princess, 109, 110, 

Bleichroder, Baron, 51, 250, 255 
Blumenthal, General von, 5 
Bluntschli, 222 
Bodelsohwingh, von, 247, 248 
Boers, 236 
Booth, John, 105, 107, 109, 110, 

112, 115, 227, 291 
Boyer, General, 25-30, 35 
Brockdorff-Ascheberg, 109 
Bucher, Lothar, 124, 125, 255 
Bulgaria, 144, 145 
Burnside, General, 18, 19, 26, 

Busch, Moritz, 4, 12, 220, 287 



Camphausen, 114 

Caprivi, Count, 127, 153, 160, 163, 

Carolath, 171 

Oastelnau, General, 5, 10, 14 
Cerf, Director, 283 
Ohambard, Count, etc., 34 
Chamberlain, Jos., 224 
China, 174-179, 242 
Christian IX., King, 79 
Chrysander, Dr., 117 
Cochery, M., 40, 41, 48 
Commune, Paris, 58 

Delbruck, 114, 171 
Denmark, 78-80, 96 
d'Hautpoul, General, 47 
Drouyn de L'Huys, 80 
Ducrot, General, 43 


Emin Pasha, 150 

England, 8, 87, 103, 133, 170, 171, 

173, 225, 227, 235, 241 
Eugenie, Empress, 14, 15, 27, 28, 

Eugenie, Villa, 77, 80 

Fabri, Inspector, 235, 236 
Faure, Felix, 179, 180 
Faure, General, 5 

Pavre, Jules, 15-18, 22, 26, 43-49, 


73, 74, 236 
Forbes, Colonel, 18 
Francis Joseph, Emperor, 143, 

Franckenstein, Minister, 139, 140 
Frankfort-on-the-Main, 57 
Frederick, Duke of Augusten- 

burg, 79 
Frederick Charles, Prince, 17, 

Frederick III., Emperor, 12, 21 
Frederick, William, 186, 192, 201, 

209, 287 

Gambetta, Leon, 20 

Garibaldi, 48 

Gastein Convention, 80 

Gero, Margrave, 12 

Goethe, 151 

Goltz, von der, 80 

Gontaut, Baron de, 102 

Gortschakoff, Prince, 39, 66, 88, 

Goulard, M., 69 
Grammont, Due de, 90 
Granville, Lord, 54 

Hahnke, General, 154 
Hansen, Jules, 78 
Harden, Maximilian, 179, 185 
Hardenberg, 94 
Hartmann, General von, 1 
Hatzfeldt, Count, 16, 69, 259 




Hegel, 148 

Hegel, Councillor, 253 

Henckel, Count, 51 

Heydt, von der, 95, 248 

Hoffmann, 114 

Hohenlohe - Schillingsfurst, 

Prince, 140, 176 
Holnstein, Count, 194, 195 
Humboldt, Alexander von, 287 

Ireland, 131, 223 
Itzenplitz, Count von, 247 

Japan, 223 
Jesse, Madame, 269 
Jewo, 163-166 
Jokai, Maurus, 104 


Karolyi, Count, 109 
Keudell, von, 255 
Kingston, W. Beatty, 85, 97 
Kissingen, 117, 254 
Kleser, Hans, 152, 158, 163 
Kneipp, Pfarrer, 122 
Koaiggratz, 212 
Kriiger, President, 171, 172 

Lasker, 113, 262, 263 

Latour, Y., 90 

Lenbach, Franz, 114, 115, 167 

Leopold of Belgium, 288 

Li Hung Chang, 173 

Lorraine, 97-99 

Louis n., King, 134, 137, 138, 

Louisa, Queen, 196 
Lucanus, Privy Councillor, 155 
Luitpold, Prince Regent, 134 
Lutz, Minister, 139 

Manteuffel, General von, 209 
Maybach, Minister, 288 
Mecklenburg, Grand Duke of, 

Memminger, Anton, 117 
Merimee, Prosper, 83 
Metz, 15, 17-19, 25, 26, 29, 30, 

35, 41, 42, 49, 52, 97, 98 
Moltke, Field Marshal, 5, 6, 10- 

12, 27, 33, 46, 52, 53, 97, 158, 

183, 199, 208, 211, 216, 266 
Montenegro, 144 
Moustier, De, 91 
Mouy, Count, 109 
Miihler, Councillor von. 251, 252 
Muravieff, Count, 180 


Napoleon, Prince Jerome, 44 
Napoleon, Prince Louis, 13 
Napoleon III., 9, 10, 13, 30, 34, 

35, 80, 89, 135, 213, 216-218 
Nesselrode, Count, 107 
Nicholas, Czar, 179 
Nobiling, Dr., 4 



Orcet, Captain d', 5 
Orloff, Prince, 76 

Panizza, Major, 144 
Pictri, 14 
Pius IX., 135 
Podbielski, General von, 2 
Poidevin, M., 37 
Poles, 214, 235 
Pouyer-Quertier, 56, 57, 70 


Quistorp, Lieut.-General von, 196 


Rameau, M., Mayor, 19-21, 24, 

25, 31, 32, 34-36 
Rantzau, Count, 167, 288 
Regnier, 13-18 
Remusat, M., 40 
Richter, 183, 258 
Roon, Count, 2, 153, 203, 208, 

211, 247, 248, 251-253 
Rothschild, 54, 255 
Rouher, 90 

Russell, Lady Emily, 99 
Russell, Lord Odo, 54 
Russia, 36, 65, 88, 92, 96, 104, 

107, 110, 141, 145, 156, 159, 

180, 181, 218, 227 

Saxony, King of, 189 
Schmitz, General, 46 
Schuvaloflf, Count, 106, 180 
Schweninger, Dr., 121, 122, 173, 

177, 292 
Sedan, 4, 28, 216, 269 
Senfft von Pilsach, 149 
Sheridan, General, 26, 37 
Spinoza, 148 
Stanley, H. M., 150 
Stein, Editor, 276 
Stolberg, Count, 94 
Strassburg, 25, 98 
Sultan, the, 173 

Thiers, 37-42, 48, 49, 51-55, 62, 

71-73, 100-103, 249 
Thun, Count, 267 
Tiedemann, 258 
Trochu, General, 37, 44, 46 
Tseng, Marquis, 176 
Turkey, 143, 173, 223-225 
"Tyras," 119,282 

Uhrlcli, General, 14 
Ulbach, Louis, 4 

Varzin, 153, 256, 270, 280, 281, 



Vincke, von, 184-187 
Virchow, Professor, 215 


Wagener, Hermann, 256, 257 
Washburne, Mr., 284 
Werner, Anton, 219 
Wetljanka, 277 

Whitman, Sidney, Introduction 
William I., 27, 28, 33, 57, 79, 80, 
159, 160, 166, 184, 185, 186, 

188, 189, 194, 195, 199, 200, 

202-205, 208, 255, 256 
William II., 123, 126, 153, 160 
WimpflFen, General, 5, 6, 10, 11 
Windhorst, Dr., 153, 154 
Wissman, Major, 150, 244 
Wrangel, Field Marshal, 287 

Zanzibar, 150 
Zeddeler, Baron, 188 








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